Posted at: 03/30/2013 10:04 AM
Updated at: 03/31/2013 2:07 PM
By: Shaun Griswold, KOB.com
Steve Alford said in press conference Saturday that he will leave the New Mexico Lobos head coaching position to lead the UCLA men's basketball team.
“It’s been a very hard 48-hours, the toughest decision I have had to make, maybe ever,” Alford said. “That’s because of how much I love this place, UNM, Albuquerque. It really came down to make a decision to go to UCLA, it’s the pinnacle of college basketball.”
Alford said UCLA approached him with the opportunity to lead the Bruins.
“It wasn’t something I went looking for, UCLA sought me out. I think it is a great compliment that UCLA wants something from New Mexico,” he said.
UCLA first confirmed the decision in a tweet sent out at around 10 a.m., "UCLA is thrilled to welcome Steve Alford and his family to Westwood."
UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said, "Steve embodies everything we are looking for in a head coach. He’s passionate, dedicated, experienced and enthusiastic. "
In another tweet sent out by UCLA, Alford expressed joy in the move, "I’m grateful to Dan Guerrero and chancellor Gene Block for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My family and I are very excited."
Alford recently signed a 10-year contract extension with New Mexico that included a $1 million buyout option of his contract if he were to leave. However, that didn't take effect until April 1, which means UCLA might have to pay $150,000 to buyout Alford's UNM contract.
“I thought I was going to be here a long time, I had just signed a 10-year contract, that was the plan, I had no idea that this opportunity would present itself,” Alford said.
Athletic Director Paul Krebs said Alford assistant Craig Neal is the interim head coach. Alford offered his support for Neal to take over the head coaching position.
“Coach Neal is ready,” Alford said.
UCLA will formally announce the hire on Tuesday.
"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," Alford said in a statement.
In his six seasons at New Mexico, Alford led the Lobos to the postseason each year, including three trips to the NCAA Tournament.
This season, the Lobos won the Mountain West Conference championship before losing to Harvard in their NCAA Tournament opener.
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