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Steve Alford Named Head Coach of UCLA after 10-year Extension with UNM PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Michaels   
Saturday, 30 March 2013 15:49

 

 

What exactly does a contract mean nowadays?

Apparently not much for now former New Mexico head coach Steve Alford. His new 10-year contract lasted a whopping eight days.

After six seasons at UNM, Alford has signed on to replace the fired Ben Howland at UCLA. Alford inked a 10-year contract extension with UNM just over a week ago, his new deal with UCLA will pay him $18.2 million over seven seasons.

“I thought I was going to be here for a long time. I just signed a 10-year deal, that was the plan,” Alford said. “Sometimes plans get messed up… I had no idea that this opportunity would present itself. I’m humbled, honored and very excited about it.”

UCLA turned to Steve Alford after star mid-major coaches Brad Stevens of Butler and Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth turned down the job. Alford said he came to the decision Friday night, and told the team Saturday morning.

Gone with Alford is his son Bryce, who had signed a national letter of intent to play for New Mexico. He will be granted a release from UNM and have the ability to play right away for the Bruins. Kory Alford is likely gone, too, but there is no word if a scholarship is available for him at UCLA.

“It really came down to having an opportunity to go to UCLA, the pinnacle of college basketball,” said Alford of his decision. “It’s one of those lifetime opportunities that is really difficult to pass up.”

Associate head coach Craig Neal, who has been with the program each of Alford’s six years, has been named the interim head coach. He is also the early favorite to land the permanent head coaching job.

There has been vocal support from both the fans and the current Lobo players for athletic director Paul Krebs to hire from within.

“If coach (Craig) Neal got the job there is a chance that everything would stay together,” redshirt sophomore center Alex Kirk said.

Senior-to-be Cameron Bairstow echoed those same sentiments. “It would be the best fit and provide a seamless transition,” he said.

Of course, anytime a coach leaves, players want to follow. It’s often tough to do with NCAA transfer rules that force a player to sit out a year when transferring.

For Alex Kirk, it’s not so difficult. The 7-footer from Los Alamos is able to graduate in August and would qualify as a transfer graduate, which gives him the ability to play immediately. When asked about possibly transferring, Kirk said: “Right now, I can’t promise anything.”

Aside from Kirk and Bairstow, no other players were available to the media on Saturday, so any other transfer possibilities would be pure speculation.

When Alford’s contract extension was announced on Mar. 21, Paul Krebs alluded to ticket and concession price raises to help pay for the pay coaches pay increase. During Saturday’s press conference, Krebs said that they will “reassess” that plan, dependent upon the next coach and his salary.

If Craig Neal does land the head coaching position, don’t be surprised if his son, Cullen, backs out of his letter of intent at Saint Mary’s to play for his father at UNM.

Alford now leaves a passionate fan base that packs the Pit every game and is desperate for a Sweet 16 appearance for a fan base that piled in 10,000-plus fans just five times at the Pauley Pavilion last season. That fan base, though, isn’t desperate for a Sweet 16. No, they demand Final Four’s.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 30 March 2013 16:03
 
New Contract; Same Ol' Early NCAA Exits for Alford, UNM PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Michaels   
Thursday, 28 March 2013 18:07

 

 

Timing is everything.

Athletic director Paul Krebs proved his is suspect after deciding to announce UNM signed men’s head basketball coach Steve Alford to a new 10-year contract the day before the No. 3 seed Lobos played No. 14 seed Harvard in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament. Simply put, the contract extension couldn’t have come at a worse time. Understandably, Krebs tried soothing concerns about Alford’s contract by capatilizing on the program's goodwill.

The contract keeps Alford on through the 2023 season and bumps his base salary up to more than than $1.2 million a year, with fans ferreting out more at ticket and concession stands to pay for the increase.  Alford now commands a higher salary than Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart, Gonzaga’s Mark Few and San Diego State’s Steve Fisher. Those coaches have all guided their respective teams to at least one Sweet 16.

It was surprising to see Alford rewarded before college basketball's biggest tournament began, especially in an era when coaches are fired for early NCAA Tournament exits.  Look no further than UCLA's Ben Howland for confirmation. Howland led UCLA to three Final Fours in 10 years, but was cut loose after the Bruins fell to No. 11 seed Minnesota, 83-63, on Mar. 22.

Krebs bought into the notoriety surrounding New Mexico, a media darling that looked poised to make a deep tourney run. A Sweet 16 berth looked like a forgone conclusion, and Krebs wanted to wrap up Alford before more enticing jobs opened. UNM announced the decision when Lobo land was in a state of glee, with ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other national pundits picking New Mexico to reach the Final Four.

In theory, it was the perfect time to discuss the re-up. The city -- hell, the entire state -- was abuzz, and concerns about raising ticket and concession prices in 2013-14 to pay for Alford's raise would take a back seat to a swell of cherry-and-silver pride if UNM got to Los Angeles.

But the Lobos blew that up by losing to No. 14 seed Harvard, bringing into question the timing and justification of Alford’s deal. Krebs and Alford are now under a great deal of pressure to take New Mexico’s regular-season eminence and translate it to NCAA Tournament relevance. Alford, of course, takes the brunt of the criticism. His Lobos' 68-62 loss to the Crimson was their second to a double-digit seed the last four years, and the second time Alford was on the wrong side of a No. 3-No. 14 upset. Alford, for all his regular-season success, has an underwhelming 5-7 lifetime NCAA Tournament record.

In truth, the red-hot Lobos had no business losing to an Ivy League team. Moreover, they definitely shouldn't have lost to a team with only one player taller than 6 feet 5 inches – 6-8 sophomore Kenyatta Smith, who averaged a meager 5.8 points.

Sure, the Lobos were Mountain West Conference regular-season and tournament champions before the announcement, but their focus should have been squarely on erasing a trend of early NCAA Tournament exits. To hear Krebs tell it, the program hasn’t been better. "This is a great era in Lobo basketball, and that is due to the leadership of coach Alford,” Krebs said, in a statement announcing the contract. Many Lobo fans think this the golden era of Lobo basketball, too. But in reality, with annual first-weekend departures, UNM is plateauing.

At some point, “There’s always next year” needs to find its way out of Burqueños’ March vocabulary. This year turns into next year, and before you know it, it becomes a decade. The clock is ticking for Krebs and Alford. It’s time for New Mexico to carry over its regular-season success to the NCAA Tournament – where true success is measured.

 

 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 18:35
 
National Signing Day: a Success for New Mexico Football PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Michaels   
Thursday, 07 February 2013 09:54

 

After an improved football program – both on and off the field in ’12 –  24 football players signed their NCAA National Letter of Intent on Tuesday (national signing day) to play for the University of New Mexico in 2013.

 

“I think the words out, you know, I kind of felt this way last year, but this year confirmed it: New Mexico and Albuquerque are kind of hidden gems,” Davie said on Tuesday. “I’m not sure what they (the recruits) perceive New Mexico to be, but when they get here, they’re amazed.”

 

The Lobos landed 15 defensive players, seven offensive players and two athletes, who can play multiple positions on both sides of the ball. As with any team that plans to succeed in the southwest region of the country, New Mexico hit the state of Texas hard in its recruiting trail, as 11 incoming freshman travel west by way of the Lone Star State.

 

“Last year I think we signed 12 players from Texas and this year it was 11. So that's 23 players in two years, and with that I saw the level of competition of people we were recruiting against go up,” Davie said. "When you look at (what schools) we beat to get some of these players, and ... who beat us to get some of those players we didn't get. I think we've raised that bar, and I think that's only going to get better.”

 

Former Cleveland High School running back, and class 5A Player of the Year, Romell Jordan, is the lone scholarship player from the state of New Mexico. Jordan looks to get playing time as running back in Davie’s triple option offense, along with some time as a slot receiver.

 

"Romell Jordan has been over here on our campus in camps, watching us play, and is a guy we felt very strongly is a great fit for us. He's a great kid, and we're really excited to have him,” Davie said. “You put his tape on and it matches up with anybody we signed in this class. I'm really glad to have Romell Jordan."

 

Jordan’s former teammate at Cleveland and current Lobo quarterback, Cole Gautsche, will be competing for the starting job with three incoming quarterbacks. All three are dual-threat guys that fit well into Davie’s offense. The quarterback competition will, without question, be the most intriguing storyline all spring.

 

The Lobos lost 23 seniors from one of the most improved teams in the country in 2012. This, like last year, is a situation where young guys are going to need to step in from day one and make an impact, in order for this team to be successful.

 

“There's no question we're light years ahead of where we were a year ago in every phase,” Davie said. “It's just we're going to be a young football team. There's no way around that."

 

 

 

The list of recruits (per UNM)

 

Ricky Bennett            DB       6-1      205     Fr-HS   Huntsville, Texas (Huntsville HS)

Jadon Boatright         DB       5-10    170     Fr-HS   Liberty Hill, Texas (Liberty Hill HS)

Brett Bowers              DE        6-3      265     Jr-TR    Ukiah, Calif. (Mendocino College)

Isaiah Brown             CB        5-11    175     Fr-HS   Katy, Texas (Katy HS)

Markel Byrd              Ath      6-0      180     Fr-HS   San Diego, Calif. (Horizon Christian Academy)

Kimmie Carson          LB        6-1      210     Fr-HS   Tulsa, Okla. (East Central HS)

Dakota Cox               LB        6-0      230     Fr-HS   Draper, Utah (Juan Diego Catholic HS)

Nik D'Avanzo             DL        6-3      295     Fr-HS   Baltimore, Md. (Archbishop Curley HS)

Dameon Gamblin       WR      5-10    160     Fr-HS   Mesquite, Texas (Mesquite HS)

Teriyon Gipson          Ath      5-9      165     Fr-HS   Dallas, Texas (Kimball HS)

David Guthrie            DB       5-10    198     Jr-TR    Winston, Ore. (College of the Siskiyous)

Reno Henderson        OL        6-4      260     So-TR  Ocala, Fla. (New Mexico Military Institute)

Lamar Jordan            QB       5-11    180     Fr-HS   Frisco, Texas (Centennial HS)

Romell Jordan            Ath      5-9      170     Fr-HS   Rio Rancho, N.M. (Cleveland HS)

Jalyn Judkins             WR      6-3      210     Fr-HS   Angleton, Texas (Angleton HS)

Caleb Kimbro             QB       6-0      185     Fr-HS   Buda, Texas (Hays HS)

Sam Mabany              DE        6-6      250     Fr-HS   Denver, Colo. (Denver South HS)

Clayton Mitchem         QB       6-1      180     Jr-HS   Fort Smith, Ark. (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College)

Solomon Normore       OL        6-4      310     Jr-Tr     Wichita, Kan. (Hutchinson Community College)

Bijon Parker                CB        6-0      165     Fr-HS   Los Angeles, Calif. (Fairfax HS)

Trevon Roy                 LB        6-1      200     Fr-HS   Dallas, Texas (Pinkston HS)

Draven Taylor             OL        6-2      300     Fr-HS   Dallas, Texas (Adamson HS)

William Udeh               DE        6-1      249     Fr-HS   Coppell, Texas (Coppell HS)

Donnie White               DE        6-2      230     Fr-HS   St. Louis, Mo. (De Smet HS)

 

 

*Highlight videos of each of the signees is available on GoLobos.Com

I watched each of them and came away very impressed. Quarterback Lamar Jordan, defensive end Donnie White (the Lobos’ highest ranked recruit) and linebacker Kimmie Carson really stood out to me on tape.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2013 10:09
 
Lobos Advance to Semi-Final of MWC Tournament PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Michaels   
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 21:53

 

It isn’t always pretty, but it’s rarely ineffective.

The No. 1-seeded New Mexico won its opening round game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, 59-46, despite going over 11 minutes without a field goal.

“Even when we’re not playing well at a particular point, we keep pushing,” said junior forward Cameron Bairstow, who played a career-high 37 minutes Wednesday night. “Holding them to 46 points, it was all on the defensive end even when we weren’t scoring.”

Tony Snell had a game-high 15 points and started the game red-hot, going 4-for-4 from the field, before missing his next seven attempts.

The key to the game was the Lobos’ stingy defense. They held Wyoming to 32% shooting and just 46 points. New Mexico also got to the charity stripe a whopping 29 times as opposed to the Cowboys’ 13 free-throw attempts.

“We really guarded the way we’ve been guarding all year,” Alford said. “The key and identity to this basketball team – I think things change year to year – but our identity has always been the defensive end.”

The Lobos played in front of what seemed like a game at the Pit. Amongst the crowd was a sea of red – an estimate of around 8,000 loud and proud Lobo fans – with a sprinkle of about 500 Wyoming fans.

“We know what kind of crowd we have. We know what kind of fans we have,” Alford said. “I’ve said it so many times: it’s a blessing and honor to be the head coach of New Mexico.”

 

 

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Pregame: UNLV at New Mexico (With Prediction) PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Michaels   
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 17:49

 

It’s been nine days since the Lobos’ last game – an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Saint Louis Billikens.

New Mexico now gets their chance to rebound, albeit against their toughest opponent to date, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. The 24th ranked (AP) Rebels are 13-2 on the season and are winners of 11 of their last 12 games. Meanwhile, the 25th ranked Lobos (13-2) have dropped two of their last three contests.

UNLV is led by Anthony Bennett, who has not only been the best freshman in the Mountain West Conference, but is one of the best first-year players in the entire country as well. The Canadian forward is averaging 19.9 points per game, and 9.1 rebounds per contest.

Bennett will undoubtedly be the Lobos’ primary focus on defense. He has the athletic ability of a swing type guard in a 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame.

This is also one of the deepest UNLV teams that have come into The Pit in a long time. Four different Rebels are averaging between 9.2 and 9.8 points per game.

The Lobos will look to take UNLV away from what they like to do the most – run the floor and exploit opponents in transition. New Mexico has been tremendous all year on defense and that will be more important than ever against a UNLV team averaging nearly 79 points per game.

New Mexico opened as one-point favorites in this contest, but surprisingly, the line moved to the Lobos by 3.5 points.

That fits pretty well with my prediction. I think the Lobos can turn this into a dog fight and wind up on top, 69-66.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 17:54
 
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