Steve Alford led New Mexico to three appearances in the NCAA tournament. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )
Steve Alford has been hired as UCLA’s basketball coach, the university announced Saturday morning.
Alford, 48, spent the last six seasons at New Mexico, compiling a 155-52 record. He replaces Ben Howland, who was fired after going 25-10 and winning the Pac-12 Conference regular-season championship.
Alford has agreed to a seven-year deal worth $2.5 million a year, according to a person familiar with the hire who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.
[Updated 11:36 a.m. March 30: UCLA officials later confirmed Alford had agreed to a seven-year contract worth $18.2 million, including a $200,000 signing bonus.]
"I have been so fortunate and blessed in my life, and an opportunity to lead the one of the greatest programs in college basketball history is once-in-a-lifetime," Alford said in a statement released by UCLA. "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. I am grateful to Chancellor Gene Block and [Athletic Director] Dan Guerrero for this amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to get started."
UCLA officials had approached Butler’s Brad Stevens and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart, who both passed on the job. Guerrero turned to Alford, who recently agreed to a 10-year contract extension worth more that $20 million.
"Steve is the perfect fit for UCLA," Guerrero said in UCLA's release. "He is part of the storied history of the game of college basketball and understands the tradition and uniqueness of UCLA. Yet he also connects with a new generation of players and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented brand of basketball to Westwood."
Alford won a national championship while playing for legendary Coach Bobby Knight at Indiana. Alford has taken three teams to the NCAA tournament as a coach: Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico.
The Lobos were seeded third in the West Regional for the NCAA tournament this season, but were upset by Harvard in their first game. New Mexico finished 29-6 this season and for the second season in a row won the Mountain West Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
Alford has a 463-235 record with nine NCAA tournament appearances in 22 seasons. His Southwest Missouri team reached the South Regional semifinals in 2006.
Alford inherits high expectations at UCLA. Aside from the court success, UCLA officials were looking for a coach who could boost sales of season tickets.
The Bruins drew only five crowds of 10,000 or more this season at recently renovated Pauley Pavilion.
Alford also inherits a team in flux. There were only eight players who came to UCLA on scholarship after Joshua Smith and Tyler Lamb transferred. Freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad is expected to declare for the NBA draft and freshman center Tony Parker is considering transferring.