Alford switches gears, bolts to UCLA

Just 10 days after agreeing to a lengthy contract extension to remain at New Mexico, Steve Alford will leave the Lobos to become the new head men's basketball coach at UCLA.

UCLA announced Saturday it has hired Alford to become the 13th head coach in the program's storied history, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that the 48-year-old will receive a seven-year deal worth $2.5 million per season.

The Bruins will formally introduce Alford, who guided New Mexico to 57 wins and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances over the past two seasons, at a press conference on Tuesday.

"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," said Alford in a statement. "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. I am grateful to Chancellor Gene Block and (athletic director) Dan Guerrero for this amazing opportunity and I can't wait to get started."

Alford amassed a 155-52 record in six seasons at New Mexico, with the Lobos reaching the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four years. He led the program to a school-record 30 wins and a Mountain West regular-season title in 2009-10, as well as a 28-7 campaign in which New Mexico advanced to the third round of the NCAA tourney in 2011-12.

The Lobos went 29-6 while capturing the MWC regular season and tournament crowns this past season, were ranked in the national polls for much of the year and earned a No. 3 seed in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament. New Mexico was upset by Harvard in the second round, however.

"Steve is the perfect fit for UCLA," said Guerrero. "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. We welcome Steve, his wife Tanya, and children Kory, Bryce and Kayla to the Bruin family and look forward to many years of success."

Alford had agreed to a new 10-year pact with New Mexico that was to run through 2022-23 on March 20, one day prior to the Harvard loss.

Prior to coming to New Mexico, Alford served as the head coach of Iowa from 1999-2007, with the Hawkeyes winning over 20 games three times and reaching three NCAA Tournaments during that eight-year stretch. The former Indiana All- American also compiled a 78-48 record over four seasons at Missouri State from 1995-99, which included a surprise trip to the Sweet 16 in 1999.

Over 18 seasons as a head coach at the Division I level, Alford has produced a 385-206 overall mark. His teams have advanced to the NCAA Tournament seven times and gone to the NIT on seven occasions.

The Bruins turned to Alford after being spurned by the likes of VCU's Shaka Smart, Butler's Brad Stevens and Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon in their attempt to replace Ben Howland, fired last week after UCLA was ousted by Minnesota in the NCAA second round.

Smart and Dixon both recently signed extensions to stay at their respective schools, while Stevens publicly stated his intent to remain at Butler on Friday.