Rick Bowmer/AP

After nearly a week of coaches leveraging the open UCLA head coaching vacancy into new contracts extensions at their current jobs, the Bruins turned to a man just 10 days removed from signing his own contract extension at another school.

UCLA announced Saturday it has hired New Mexico’s Steve Alford to be its next men’s basketball coach. Alford signed a seven-year contract worth $18.2 million and includes a $200,000 signing bonus.

Alford had just inked a 10-year contract extension with New Mexico on March 20, and two days later the third-seeded Lobos were unceremoniously eliminated from the NCAA tournament by No. 14 seed Harvard, 68-62. New Mexico Athletic Director Paul Krebs told the Albuquerque Journal that the new deal increased Alford’s buyout from $200,000 to $1 million. It appears all was not well between Alford and Krebs.

Told by sources Steve Alford was upset at UNM AD for publicly saying his raise would be paid for by increased ticket prices, concessions.

— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) March 30, 2013

Alford, 48, has a 463-235 record in 22 seasons as a head coach, the past six spent at New Mexico. He led the Lobos to four Mountain West regular season titles, three NCAA tournament appearances and a top 10 ranking in the national polls this regular season.

“To be honest, I thought this was long term,” Alford told reporters. “This is truly a leap of faith, decisions like this. I think it becomes a little bit easier when it’s UCLA.

Like UCLA legend, John Wooden, Alford is also a native Hoosier. Alford grew up in the state and led Indiana to the 1987 national championship under Coach Bob Knight. Even more intriguing is the news that Alford’s son, Bryce, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard who broke a 50-year-old New Mexico high school scoring record this past season, will accompany his father to UCLA.

Given the circumstances — VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens had reportedly rebuffed the Bruins’ advances already and signed lengthy contract extensions to stay put this week — this is a strong hire by UCLA and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. Alford has a proven track record of success having led three schools (New Mexico, Iowa and Southwest Missouri State) to the NCAA tournament, and his name will carry some weight with a demanding UCLA fan base.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s not forget Alford has advanced to the Sweet 16 just once in his head coaching career. He replaces former UCLA Coach Ben Howland, who got fired despite making three Final Four appearances in 10 seasons.


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