After being rejected by VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens, both of whom were loyal to their respective schools, UCLA hired New Mexico’s Steve Alford, who recently signed a 10-year extension with the school, on Saturday.
Alford’s third-seeded New Mexico Lobos embarrassingly lost to undermanned Harvard in the first round of this year’s NCAA tournament. Five of his best players on the New Mexico team are slated to return next season. ESPN first reported the news.
UCLA fired head coach Ben Howland this year after ten seasons as fans became frustrated with Howland’s style of play and inability to take UCLA to the next level in an arena that only hangs championship banners.
“I have been so fortunate and blessed in my life, and an opportunity to lead the one of the greatest programs in college basketball history is once in a lifetime,” Alford said in a statement released by the school. “It is an honor to be the head coach at UCLA, yet it is also a responsibility to ensure that our former, current and future players and fans are proud to be Bruins.”
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero implied Alford’s style of play would fit better in Los Angeles than Howland’s.
“Steve is the perfect fit for UCLA,” Guerrero said. “He is part of the storied history of the game of college basketball and understands the tradition and uniqueness of UCLA. Yet he also connects with a new generation of players and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented brand of basketball to Westwood.”
Alford played collegiate basketball at Indiana, and UCLA’s legendary head coach John Wooden hailed from Indiana–but nobody is even suggesting Alford will come close to being Wooden.