ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Steve Alford certainly didn’t have the rivalry with Rick Majerus that several Lobos coaches before him did.
But it didn’t take years of competing head-to-head with Majerus’ Utah Utes squads for Alford to respect what he was up against.
“I remember playing and coaching against coach Majerus’ teams,” Alford said Sunday, one day after Majerus died in Los Angeles at the age of 64. “His teams were always well prepared and coached. Rick was an outstanding basketball mind.”
Southern California vs. No. 25 New Mexico, 8:15 p.m., the PitTV: CBS Sports NetworkRadio: 770 AM
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Majerus coached against UNM in both the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences from 1989-2004. He brought his Saint Louis Billikens to the Pit on Dec. 31, 2011, for the first in a two-year scheduling agreement with the Lobos – a contract that was to have the two coaches meet again later this month in St. Louis. But Majerus stepped down before the season began for health concerns and announced last month he would not be returning to coach.
He was a longtime villain in the eyes of Lobos fans, but it always seemed to come with respect.
Former UNM coach Fran Fraschilla, an ESPN college basketball analyst, wrote some of his memories of Majerus on a blog post on ESPN.com.
“I was fortunate to be one of the many coaches who spent a late night at a diner with Rick, moving salt and pepper shakers around the table to simulate a new screen-and-roll concept,” Fraschilla wrote. “Of course, there was a double order of onion rings and a couple of milk shakes on the table as well.”
The former Lobos coach went on to tell of the time Majerus reached out to him after his tenure as UNM’s coach was over.
“After not talking to me for three years when we competed against each other, the day I resigned as coach at New Mexico, he was the only colleague of mine in the league to call and offer his help,” Fraschilla wrote.
ALWAYS A SHOOTER: When Alford returned to Indiana over the weekend as his 25th-ranked Lobos took on Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind., there were plenty of fans in the Hulman Center who very well aware of his exploits nearly three decades ago in the basketball courts of the Hoosier State. There, he gained a reputation as one of the best high school and college shooters ever.
And they wanted more Saturday.
With 14 minutes remaining in the second half, a loose ball on the Sycamore side of the court rolled down to Alford standing at the end of the Lobos bench. The second he picked up the ball to toss it back to a referee, at least four different fans around the Hulman Center began pleading, “Shoot it!”
Alford instead left the big shots on this trip to his sophomore point guard Hugh Greenwood in the 77-68 UNM overtime victory.
MOUNTAIN WEST: The Mountain West continues to have as impressive a start to the season as any conference in the nation. The conference has three ranked teams, UNM, UNLV and San Diego State; one receiving votes in both major Top 25 polls, Colorado State; and two more with wins over nationally ranked teams in the past week – Boise State over No. 11 Creighton and Wyoming over No. 19 Colorado.
— This article appeared on page B5 of the Albuquerque Journal