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UCLA picks Steve Alford for new men's basketball coach

New Mexico v Harvard

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Head coach Steve Alford of the New Mexico Lobos reacts in the second half while taking on the Harvard Crimson during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. UCLA announced Saturday that Alford will be UCLA's new men's basketball coach.

UCLA has hired Steve Alford as men's basketball coach, luring him from New Mexico days after Alford signed a new 10-year deal with the Lobos.

Athletic director Dan Guerrero says Alford is "the perfect fit for UCLA" because he connects with a new generation of players and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented style of play to Westwood.

Alford signed a seven-year deal worth $2.6 million per year, according to CBSSports.com.

Alford succeeds Ben Howland, who was fired last weekend after 10 years at UCLA.

Alford led New Mexico to a 29-6 record this season that included the Mountain West regular-season and tournament titles. But the Lobos were upset by Harvard in the second round of the NCAA tournament shortly after Alford's new deal with the school had been announced.

"I have been so fortunate and blessed in my life, and an opportunity to lead one of the greatest programs in college basketball history is once-in-a-lifetime," he said in a statement.

Alford had a 155-52 record in six years at New Mexico, with the Lobos making three trips to the NCAA tournament. He was selected Mountain West coach of the year three times.

His other head coaching stints were at Iowa (2000-07), Missouri State (1996-99) and Manchester College (1992-95) in his native Indiana.

Alford is a legend in the Hoosier state, where he starred at Indiana University from 1984-87 under coach Bob Knight. The Hoosiers won the national championship in his senior year. He also played on the gold medal-winning 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team in Los Angeles as a college sophomore. Knight coached that team.

Alford was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1987 and played four years in the NBA before starting his head coaching career at tiny Manchester.

He was not the school’s first choice. Butler coach Brad Stevens reportedly rebuffed UCLA’s offers.  

Alford, whose hiring was announced Saturday, will be introduced at UCLA on Tuesday.

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