Steve Alford is trading in his University of New Mexico Lobo red blazer for Bruin blue and UCLA.
The six-year Lobo coach said it was a hard decision.
Days ago Alford agreed to a new 10-year extension with New Mexico. He said, at the time of his agreement, he planned on staying at UNM for a long time.
UCLA came calling a few days ago. Alford said he had to go to the place he calls, “the pinnacle of basketball.”
He might not be alone.
Seven-foot center Alex Kirk made it sound as if he was game for a transfer to join coach Alford if Lobos now-interim coach Craig Neal does not get the job on a permanent basis.
There is always a possibility that some players will ask for a release to transfer when a coach changes jobs. It is probably too early to tell how that will go.
Alford will take his basketball playing sons Kory and Bryce with him. Bryce Alford just enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons turned in by a New Mexico high school player, averaging 38 points per game.
UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs said he was disappointed but understood the business.
Alford leaves the Lobos program in better shape than he found it. During his six seasons, Alford made the Lobos road tough and league champion regulars. The Lobos won four Mountain West titles and also a pair of conference tournament titles. He also enjoyed the support of a fan base that would follow him anywhere.
He leaves for a storied program at UCLA. While the Lobo faithful always talked about just getting to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, UCLA will expect a national title. That is the challenge that awaits Alford.
There is also a seven-year $18.2 million deal that will pay him $2.6 million a year. Throw in a $200,000 signing bonus and the lure of the house that John Wooden built and you have all of the factors that made Steve Alford go from being a Lobo to a Bruin.
He will be officially introduced as UCLA’s head basketball coach at a press conference Tuesday.
More from KRQE.com: Lobo Coach Alford jumps to UCLA