Steve Alford has agreed to become the coach of the UCLA Bruins, the school announced Saturday. The decision ends a weeklong search to replace Ben Howland that saw the historic powerhouse uncharacteristically rebuffed by candidates.
Alford arrives after six seasons at New Mexico, where he averaged more than 25 victories a season and reached three NCAA tournaments. The 48-year-old previously coached Iowa for eight seasons and Missouri State for four, reaching three more NCAA tournaments.
He may be best known for his All-American play at Indiana under Bob Knight in the mid-1980s. Alford spent four years in the NBA before getting into college coaching. His father, Sam, was a legendary high school coach in Indiana.
Alford's current New Mexico team was his best, spending much of the season in the top 15 of the rankings and winning 29 games, including the Mountain West regular-season and tournament championships. The season ended with disappointment when the Lobos were upset by Harvard in the NCAA tournament.
Still he brings both relative coaching youth and experience to Westwood.
UCLA, considered by most one of the top five college basketball jobs in the country, found at least two of its initial candidates – VCU's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens – uninterested in the job. Those decisions surprised many Bruins fans, who still see the program as a desirable spot.
Coaches, however, point to the school's relatively modest commitment to budgets, the challenge of managing the many off-court and recruiting distractions of Los Angeles and the fact that schools of all sizes are now paying extremely well – especially in comparison to the cost of living on L.A.'s west side.
Regardless, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero found his man just a week after firing Howland, who took the program to three Final Fours in 10 seasons.
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