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UCLA Bruins: Why New Mexico’s Steve Alford Was Great Hire

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

After a long search to replace former men’s basketball head coach Ben Howland, UCLA has hired Steve Alford to be the next coach of the Bruins.

Alford spent his last six seasons with southwest powerhouse New Mexico in the Mountain West, earning a record of 155-52. New Mexico was knocked out of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in a second-round upset by Harvard, while Howland led UCLA to a Pac-12 Conference regular-season championship in his final season.

The move for UCLA came for many reasons, all involving on and off the court issues with Howland. With Alford as head coach, UCLA is adding a strong recruiter, confident coach, and humble leader. Alford’s contract will average $2.5 million each season over seven years.

Howland was supposed to be the next John Wooden in Westwood, but that expectation never panned out. Alford, on the other hand, was a winner as a player with Indiana and head coach Bobby Knight and has been a winner as a coach with the Lobos. Alford has led the Lobos to three NCAA tournaments, unfortunately failing to have any post season success.

Many critics point to the amount of players leaving for the NBA Draft or transferring as a sign of future failure for Alford with UCLA. However, Alford will have the unique opportunities to recruit the team he wants, and coach players he know he can teach and help mature. Freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad is expected to enter the draft, while Joshua Smith and Tyler Lamb have transferred. Freshman center Tony Parker is also considering transferring.

After Virginia Commonwealth‘s Shaka Smart and Butler‘s Brad Stevens declined offers to become the next head coach at UCLA, Alford was certainly the best option.

Now that Alford controls the future of the Bruins, UCLA officials can rest easy and know their program is in good hands.

 

John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. John works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in addition to Rant Sports. Follow: @engelsportsguy.