Posted at: 03/30/2013 5:45 PM
Updated at: 03/30/2013 6:18 PM
By: J.P. Murrieta, KOB Eyewitness Sports 4
It was less than two weeks ago he agreed to a 10-year contract extension with the University of New Mexico. Now he's leaving the Lobos for the Bruins.
Why is Steve Alford leaving the Lobos? Four letters, U.C.L.A.
Alford isn't leaving the Cherry and Silver because of the fans or because of the "fishbowl" of Lobo basketball. He's leaving because he has the opportunity to coach at the same school of the guy who won 10 national championships.
UCLA isn't what they once were, but in coaching circles it is still considered a premiere job. "When you're a gym rat and UCLA calls, you listen," said Alford at his departing press conference at UNM. "Had it been anybody else, the answer would have been no."
Alford's decision to leave caught everyone by surprise, including me! I thought Alford would be here for a while (at least until his son Bryce graduated). He had a fan base that was passionate about the program. He had a full house for almost every game (even exhibition ones) and he coached in a town driven by basketball. There aren't too many other places like that.
Those championship banners in the rafters at UCLA were like a magnet to a coach who grew up in the midwest playing in a gym named after his childhood hero John Wooden. Alford is 48 years old. He doesn't know when he'll get another chance to coach a program like UCLA.\
In the immediate future Alford won't find a fan base like the one at UNM. UCLA had less than half a dozen crowds of more than 10,000 fans last year. He won't get the year-round media attention like he does in Albuquerque. UCLA basketball takes a back seat to the Lakers, Dodgers and even USC football.
Other coaches have tried to live up to the ghost of John Wooden and the dynasty he once built. We'll see if Alford can bring some of that magic back to Westwood.