Coming out to a remixed version of Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win,” Steve Alford was introduced as the next head coach of Nevada Men’s Basketball. He takes over for departed Eric Musselman, who left just five days prior to take over as the head coach at Arkansas.
A public event was held at Lawlor Events Center on Friday, April 12, at 2 p.m. to officially introduce Alford as the 19th head coach in the history of the program. Alford possesses quite a respectable coaching history, a fact not lost on the new coach.
“I might be, I just might be, the first coach that’s hired here to be undefeated in this building,” Alford said in reference to his coaching history.
Alford previously served as the head coach at New Mexico from 2007-13. In his tenure with the Lobos, Alford led the team to four regular-season championships, two Mountain West Conference Championships and three NCAA tournament appearances. Even in his worst year with New Mexico, 2010-11, he still finished with .629 win percentage.
Every stop along the coaching road for Alford has presented new challenges and has taught him new techniques. One of the key issues he learned while with the Lobos was the importance of playing high-level competition before the NCAA tournament arrives.
“When I was in the Mountain West before, we scheduled up,” Alford said. “We knew that’s how we were gonna get better seeds. That’s how we are gonna prepare ourselves for league play and we try to get as many national games as we possibly can and stay within a national picture I think is vital to our program.”
Alford originally began his coaching career in 1991 at Manchester, a Division-III school. He spent four seasons with the program, going 78-29, and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 1999.
Following Manchester, Alford moved up the coaching ladder, leading Missouri State and then Iowa. Between the two universities, he clocked in 12 years of head coaching experience and led his squads to four NCAA tournaments in that time. He also won the Big Ten Conference Championship twice while at Iowa. Alford was most recently the head coach at UCLA but was fired last season after starting 7-6. Factoring in all 28 years of his head coaching experience, Alford has only had a losing season twice.
Alford believes the experience he has gained coaching will help fast track the development of the program.
“This is my sixth spot, and it’s the same approach as the rest,” Alford said. “We’re just trying to take something and evolve it and try to make it better. And that takes work of everyone involved.”
Experience at the collegiate coaching level is, of course important, but it’s his resume around the basketball world which speaks wonders. Alford played college ball for Indiana, and it was while at Indiana, that the championship bug first bit him. In 1984, while attending Indiana, Alford was selected to the US National team and had the opportunity to represent Team USA in the Olympics. The team would go onto win the Gold Medal as Alford played alongside some of the all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing.
“To be on the Olympic team and play with guys like [Michael] Jordan, [Chris] Mullin and [Patrick] Ewing,” Alford said. “That was special to be able to do that as a player.”
If the 1984 Olympic Basketball team can be considered the flame that lit the championship spirit in Alford, Basketball Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight can be thought of as the spark. Knight was not only Alford’s coach at Indiana during his time with the Hoosiers, but was the also his coach at the 1984 Olympic games. Knight is one of the most prolific coaches in college basketball history, he’s coached three NCAA championship teams, won 11 conference championships and even led his 1975-76 team to a perfect season. For reference, there have only been seven teams in the history of the NCAA to accomplish such a feat.
Alford’s experience in championships games proved crucial to his university’s success when in 1987, he helped lead the Hoosiers to a national championship.
At multiple times in the press conference, Alford attributed fantastic leadership as one of the main things that attracted him to Reno and the university.
“The leadership that you have here is at a really high level,” Alford said.
Alford specifically thanked athletics director Doug Knuth and university president Marc Johnson.
A strong foundation of leadership is crucial, but it also takes a strong core of individual players. Prior to the event, Alford met with returning players to address their concerns. In the days leading up to his hiring, Nevada was down to only one returning player who was eligible to play on opening day — Lindsey Drew. Since the meetings, he has been able to re-recruit Jazz Johnson back to the team for his final season of eligibility. Keeping the team together is one of Alford’s top priorities.
“They’ve been a part of something special, now we can put the pieces together and stay at that level for years to come,” Alford said.
Alford reiterated his commitment to Nevada and to Reno multiple times during the conference, but the biggest commitment came the day prior. When Nevada announced the signing of Alford, Nevada also confirmed they had signed him to a 10-year deal. Alford stated he and his wife Tanya wanted to find a potential forever home at his next coaching stop.
“To be able to continue my career in a tight-knit community that has demonstrated its support for the basketball program is exactly the opportunity that Tanya and I were looking for, and we are thrilled to be in Northern Nevada,” Alford said. “I can’t wait to get to work as we look to build off the established tradition and momentum of this great program. I want this to be the last stop of my coaching career.”
Since the signing of the contract, the numbers involved in the deal have been released. To start, the deal is the longest in the history of the program, it keeps Alford as the coach until April 30, 2029. The deal is also fully guaranteed, earning him $11.6 million over the 10 years. His base salary will start at $500,000 but by the end of the deal, will grow to $1.5 million. Perhaps the most interesting piece of text in his contract is in relation to buyouts. If Alford breaks his contract in the first year, he owes Nevada $8 million. The number decreases from there as the years go on, leveling out at $1.5 million in year six and onward. The numbers involved in the deal are unprecedented for Nevada.
Before closing down the event, Alford took a moment to acknowledge the last thing that attracted him to Nevada and more specifically, Reno.
“The last thing that drew me here was golf, if there’s anything about the timing of this hire, it’s Master’s weekend,” Alford jokingly admitted. “I need to get with the golf team very shortly because I need gloves, balls, clubs, everything.”
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.