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Alford in a Happy Place

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Coach Appreciates Being Somewhere Basketball’s Important

Another successful season for the New Mexico Lobos and another round of coaching rumors are sure to surface in the coming months.

Before they do, though, UNM coach Steve Alford on Monday’s Mountain West Conference coaches teleconference gushed about the perfect fit Albuquerque and UNM seem to be for his family.

“One of the things you don’t usually mess with is happy,” Alford told a Colorado-based reporter who asked him if UNM was a “long term fit.”

Alford, whose Lobos moved up to No. 15 in the Associated Press poll and averaged 25.2 wins in his first five seasons, said it goes beyond just the success his team has had, and beyond what he gets paid, which with bonuses easily exceed $1 million this season.

“It’s a basketball place,” Alford said. “I’ve been in basketball a long time. … I grew up playing the game in a great state of Indiana that understood basketball and gave it an awful lot of hype and people supporting it. My high school gym (had a capacity of) 10,000. It was in my blood. My dad was a high school coach. I think once I knew I wanted to get into coaching, being in a basketball place that understands it, and appreciates it and supports it would mean a great deal. I found that here.”

UNM this season is averaging 14,895 fans per home game and has arguably the best facilities in the Mountain West.

“Our exhibition games are played in front of 13,000 (fans),” Alford said (UNM’s two home games averaged 12,748). “There are not a lot of places in the country that can do that. We’ve got great weather. We’ve got phenomenal facilities. We’ve got one of the best fan bases anywhere in the country. We’ve got a great league to participate in. And we’re having success.”

He also mentioned his family is happy in Albuquerque and with sons Kory Alford (a freshman on this year’s team) and Bryce Alford (a senior at La Cueva who has signed a National Letter of Intent to play at UNM next season) seemingly having many years of Lobo basketball ahead of them, Alford seems to be entrenched right now.

SNELL STILL NOT WELL: Tony Snell, UNM’s junior swingman, was still sick at Monday’s practice, though he did participate fully with the first team.

He played just 21 minutes Saturday against Nevada while feeling the effects of flu-like symptoms. At Monday’s practice, he frequently walked away from teammates coughing and appeared winded at times, but did not miss any drills.

He is expected to play Wednesday against Air Force, though it is unclear how much he will play.

THE VOTERS: UNM appeared on all 65 ballots in the AP poll with a high ranking of 13 from Dave Borges of the New Haven (Conn.) Register and a low ranking of 22 from Roger Clarkson of the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald.

Only three voters had three Mountain West teams ranked this week.

The ranking of 15 matches a season high for UNM but the 660 points the Lobos received Monday is the most this season.

FRAN’S BAD: Though it isn’t one of the major polls, ESPN is really pushing it’s Power Rankings poll each week. It is a poll comprised of Top 25 ballots from 18 college basketball analysts that work for the sports network, including former UNM coach Fran Fraschilla.

Monday’s Power Rankings included Fraschilla as the only ESPN voter to leave the Lobos unranked.

Bad blood? A little hate from the former coach?

Not so much.

As Fraschilla tweeted Monday afternoon after being bombarded with hateful messages from Lobos fans, “Relax. An oversight. Did it at 6 AM in Morgantown. No offense intended.”

He later tweeted to a Lobos fan apologizing for some of the tweets the former coach had been receiving, “No sweat. Totally my mistake. Said a LOT of nice stuff about Lobos in past.”

MOUNTAIN WEST: Click here to read Tuesday’s Mountain West conference notebook.

LOBOS LINKS: Roster | Schedule/Results | Geoff Grammer’s blog

— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal


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