NCAA Tournament coaches carry some Bob Knight DNA
The roots run deep on the Bobby Knight coaching tree.
It’s from those roots that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker and No. 10 New Mexico coach Steve Alford grew.
The 48-year-old Alford is a more direct descendent having been recruited by and having played for Knight for four seasons with the Indiana Hoosiers. The 47-year-old Amaker’s playing career traveled through Durham, N.C., where he played college ball then later was an assistant for Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, the most decorated of all Knight coaching disciples.
Amaker’s final college game was an 88-82 loss to Alford and Hoosiers in the 1987 Midwest Regional semifinal (IU went on to win the national title a week and a half later).
“Yeah he played for coach Krzyzewski at the same time as I played for coach Knight and we played against each other in the regional in 1987, the year we won it,” Alford said. “I’ve been friends with him ever since. We’re kind of from the same family tree that way.”
Amaker’s Ivy League Champion Crimson (19-9) will try to exact some revenge on Alford and the Lobos (29-5) on Thursday when the two teams play at 7:50 p.m. in Salt Lake City in the NCAA Tournament.
The two later crossed paths as head coaches in the Big Ten – Alford at Iowa and Amaker at Michigan – where Alford held a 5-4 coaching edge.
“Steve is a good friend and a great player,” Amaker told the Boston Herald. “He’s done an incredible job everywhere he’s been as a coach. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Steve Alford.”
The Crimson were in Alford’s new stomping grounds last year at this time when the Pit was home to six NCAA Tournament games. But Alford and his Lobos were in Portland, Ore.
And don’t expect the two friends to spend much time together this week in Salt Lake City, either.
“We see each other on the road and may spend time together that way,” Alford said. “But this is obviously a business trip.”
TOP TEN TEAM: It took the entire season, but New Mexico will enter the NCAA Tournament as a Top 10 team.
Monday’s release of the final Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season had UNM ranked No. 10 after its run to a Mountain West tournament championship last week in Las Vegas, Nev. UNM is tied with Michigan, the team formerly coached by Amaker, for the No. 10 spot, both having received 989 total points.
The Lobos are also ranked No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches poll, which was released Sunday night.
No other Mountain West team appeared in either poll, though Colorado State and UNLV received votes in both.
ON THE CALL: The TNT broadcast crew calling Thursday night’s game will include Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb and Jaime Maggio.
Dedes also called UNM’s games in San Jose in 2010.
Gottlieb has called plenty of UNM games this year on the CBS Sports Network and many Lobos fans have developed a love/hate relationship with him. While has been critical of NCAA Tournament games played in high-elevation arenas like the Pit (Salt Lake City’s elevation is above 4,300 feet) and was more recently critical of UNM’s use of moving screens throughout the Mountain West tournament, he was also on air Sunday night picking UNM to go to the Final Four.
TICKETS: UNM sold out Monday of all 550 tickets given to it for the Thursday/Saturday session of games in Salt Lake City.
Tickets can be purchased directly from EnergySolutionsArena.com.
NEED A RIDE? Tixs for Kids, the non-profit organization that took three busloads of fans to Las Vegas for last week’s MWC tournament, is also organizing rides to Salt Lake City.
For $425, fans can get a double-occupancy hotel room in Salt Lake City ($525 for single occupancy) and a bus ride to and from Salt Lake City. The ride alone without a hotel room costs $225. Tickets to the games are not included.
Call Bobby Aragon at 505-980-4579 for more information.
RETURN TO UTAH: The Lobos are very familiar with playing in Utah having done so many times when the Utah Utes and BYU Cougars were in the same league.
UNM’s last game in Utah was an 82-64 win over No. 3 BYU in Provo on March 2, 2011. The Lobos’ last game in Salt Lake City was an 82-72 loss to the Utes.
WALKER UPDATE: There is no change in the indefinite suspension of Demetrius Walker. While Alford has not officially said Walker is off the team, the 6-2 junior guard will not travel to Salt Lake City this week.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal