UCLA announced the news by Twitter at around 10
just minutes after ESPN’s Andy Katz broke the news – around the
Alford himself was breaking the news to his former players.
“Obviously very surprised because basically we
just by the Internet (when) we were out at the community (service)
junior Cameron Bairstow. “And he talked to us about it. We were
surprised but at the same time we fully understand the situation
opportunity he has moving forward so all the best to him.”
Alford arrived at UNM six years ago to a
program that was a
shambles but rebuilt it, eventually running his record as Lobo
head coach to
155-52 in his six seasons. Alford leaves as the only coach in the
UNM to win 22 games in each of his first six seasons, and he has
Lobos for the postseason in all six seasons, including three NCAA
in the last four seasons.
Addressing the media for the final time at The
noontime, he reflected on his decision to leave UNM.
“This has been a very hard 48 hours,” said
toughest decision I’ve had to make…maybe ever, and that’s because
of how much I
love this place, UNM, Albuquerque, New Mexico, the fans. It really came down to
opportunity to go to UCLA, the pinnacle of college basketball. It’s one of those
opportunities that is really difficult to pass up.”
Sophomore center Alex Kirk was philosophical
when talking to
the media about Alford’s departure.
“Obviously I’m so happy for Coach,” said Kirk.
talking about it as players, nobody would say no to UCLA. That’s
yeah, it was an emotional meeting and we all agree with it. It’s
because it affects us immediately. It affects our futures. But he
right call for him. We all agree with it. It’s just kind of ‘What
are we all
going to do now?’”
UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs said a
would be made for a replacement for Alford, though associate head
coach Craig Neal was named interim head coach for the Lobos before Saturday’s
conference was started.
“I think that the urgency (to get a new head
coach) is self
imposed,” said Krebs. “We want to get someone in here as soon as
we can for the
sake of our student-athletes.”
Neal reportedly addressed the team Saturday
after Alford did
and had a calming effect on the team.
“He just kind of did what he would normally do
– he kind of
calmed us down and said ‘Take a breath’ –
and that’s all we could do right now,” said Kirk.
Reports surfaced early Sunday that Kirk had
told a source
that he would leave UNM if Neal was not named coach. Kirk
from the report – such as Kirk’s ability to graduate from UNM In
making him immediately eligible to play elsewhere as a graduate
“I guess that is a possibility,” said Kirk of
no-transfer scenario. “ Like I said, I’ll have to see what’s going
right now I can’t promise anything.”
Kirk and Bairstow both supported the idea of
UNM hiring Neal
as head coach.
“I think if Coach Neil got the job that there’d
be a chance
to keep everything together,” said Kirk. “I’d say there’s a chance
but I can’t
promise anything obviously – I can’t say that if Coach Neil got
the job that we
would all stay. But I can say it’s a tough situation and we’ve all
got to think
about ourselves and our families in this situation.”
Bairstow said he thought hiring Neal would be
“We’ve obviously got to talk about it with our
said Bairstow. “It’s really confusing right now. I haven’t had a
lot of time to