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Lobos give Alford 10 more years

Steve Alford waves four fingers, equal to the number of Mountain West Conference titles UNM has won under his watch. Alford and New Mexico announced a new contract on Wednesday.  (ROBERTO E. ROSALES/JOURNAL)
Steve Alford waves four fingers, equal to the number of Mountain West Conference titles UNM has won under his watch. Alford and New Mexico announced a new contract on Wednesday. (ROBERTO E. ROSALES/JOURNAL)
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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal 

SALT LAKE CITY – Steve Alford isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

That was his message Wednesday and the message the University of New Mexico sent by agreeing in principle to a new 10-year contract designed to keep the sixth-year Lobos head coach in charge of the program through at least the 2022-23 season.

The new deal, with incentives, base salary and total compensation, could have Alford earning as much as $2 million per season.

“We want him to be here at the University of New Mexico a long time,” said UNM athletic director Paul Krebs in an interview. “Steve’s done a tremendous job – not only in wins and losses, but in graduation rate, presence in community, the good will. Look at all the national publicity about the program we’ve been receiving and he’s been a very good representative of this university in this time.”

Alford’s base salary will go from $324,200 to $564,200. In addition, many of his performance-based incentives will increase. He will also continue to receive $600,000 in “other compensation” for media and community work and $100,000 in deferred compensation paid into a retirement account.

Krebs said during his KKOB-AM radio program Wednesday that fans could expect to see ticket prices increase to help fund Alford’s new contract.

Alford is the only coach in the history of UNM to win at least 22 games in each of his first six seasons, and he has qualified the Lobos for the postseason in all six, including three NCAA Tournaments in the last four seasons. The Lobos have won 155 games in his six years, an average of just under 26 games per season.

UNM announced the deal early Wednesday, a day after the 29-5, 10th-ranked Lobos arrived in Salt Lake City in preparation for tonight’s NCAA Tournament game with Harvard at 7:50 p.m.

Alford said the timing of the deal doesn’t really mean anything other than he wanted to get the deal done. His name has been thrown around in the past as a coaching candidate at other programs and had already started to surface in media reports at places like the University of Southern California and Texas Tech.

“It just happens every spring and you’re humbled by it,” Alford said of constant coaching rumors. “You’re appreciative when it does happen because it probably means you’re doing a good job. …

“I don’t know about timing as much as it was just coming to terms and knowing that this is where I wanted to be.”

Same goes for his family. Alford said his decision came with the blessing of his wife, Tanya, daughter Kayla and sons Kory and Bryce, who have a special interest in where their dad coaches.

Kory is a redshirt freshman on the UNM team this season, and Bryce is a senior at La Cueva High School who has signed a letter of intent to play at UNM beginning next season.

Maybe most pleasing to Lobo fans is the hefty buyout clause protecting the program if Alford were to leave UNM any time soon, which he has said time and again he has no intention of doing. Should Alford void the contract before the end of the 2014-15 season, UNM would be owed $1 million. Should he choose to leave before April 1, 2017, he would owe the university $500,000. His buyout thereafter would be $300,000.

Junior guard Kendall Williams said the commitment shown from both the university and Alford should pay huge dividends.

“I think it’s tough for a player to come in and have his coaches leave and have to learn a whole new system halfway through his career,” Williams said. “So as a recruit and with the recruits coming to UNM, it’s going to be a huge advantage to know he’s in for the long haul.”

The agreement as a final contract has yet to be signed. Should Alford stay through the duration of the agreed terms, he would be the longest tenured men’s basketball coach in UNM history.

Under the new deal, there is also $65,000 available toward pay increases for assistant coaches.

Krebs said none of the pay increase will come from student fees or state funds; instead it will originate from revenue the basketball program. Also, per the agreement, Alford cannot ask for a pay increase in the next four years, and the contract could be extended each year thereafter so it will never be less than a six-year contract at a given time.

“Based on the conversations we’ve had, Steve has no intention of leaving, but he’s a leader that we certainly wanted to reward for everything he’s done for the program,” Krebs said. “I think our focus was keeping Steve at New Mexico. If you saw what happened in Las Vegas last week (at the Mountain West Conference tournament, where an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 fans showed up to support the team), it’s obvious just how important University of New Mexico basketball is to the university and the entire state.”

Three of the 14 existing contract performance bonuses were deleted from the contract: a $10,000 bonus apiece for the Lobos reaching 20 wins in a season (they have 29 entering Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game), the team having a final strength of schedule ranked in the top 100 (it was ranked No. 2 this season) and the team finishing the season with a top 50 RPI ranking (it is No. 2).
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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