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Ink Almost Dry on Deal With Alford

By Mark Smith
Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    Barring a last-minute snag in negotiations, Lobo fans can expect to see Iowa's Steve Alford take control of the UNM men's basketball program.
    He may sign a contact as early as today, with an official announcement expected Friday.
    "I know there are a lot of reports out there," UNM athletic director Paul Krebs told the Journal on Wednesday night. "We said we're not commenting until the press conference, and we're going to stand by that.
    "We're not there yet."
    Asked whether that news conference would be Friday, Krebs said, "I would hope that we have something soon— and that would be a good day. But it's not over until it's over. Some things still have to happen."
    College coaches and others have told the Journal that Alford has been negotiating a deal with UNM and the Dallas-based firm of Beaudine & Eastman, and that they reached a basic settlement Wednesday.
    ESPN reported Wednesday night that New Mexico and Alford, the University of Iowa men's basketball coach, were working out the final details of his hiring and that a tentative news conference was scheduled for Friday.
    UNM soon-to-be President David Schmidly told the Journal that he couldn't yet comment on the situation because it was "still too sensitive."
   
Support from Knight
    Since March 11, numerous college coaches have told the Journal that Alford has been saying he was offered the job and that Texas Tech coach Bob Knight was campaigning for his former Indiana star player.
    Schmidly hired Knight when Schmidly was president at Texas Tech, and sources say the incoming UNM president backed Alford during the search process.
    "The only thing they were waiting on was permission from Gary Barta," one coach told the Journal.
    Barta confirmed Wednesday that he granted permission for Alford to talk to UNM earlier in the week.
    In a prepared statement released Wednesday, Barta said, "University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs has asked permission to contact coach Steve Alford in regard to the head coaching position at New Mexico.
    "I have granted that permission to New Mexico officials. It will be coach Alford's decision as to whether he chooses to visit with them."
    Late Wednesday afternoon, the Des Moines Register caught up with Barta outside his office and the athletic director told the newspaper "Hopefully, we'll know more by (today)." Asked what he meant by that, Barta repeated, "Hopefully, we'll know more by (today)."
    According to a report by Jon Miller on Des Moines radio station KXNO, Alford will meet with his team today to inform them he is taking the job at UNM.
    The station also reported that a news conference was scheduled for Friday in Albuquerque.
    The New Mexico sports information department said, as of Wednesday evening, no news conference had yet been scheduled.
    Iowa freshman post Josh Crawford told the Journal Wednesday he had not talked to Alford since Monday and didn't know of any teammates who had talked to the coach.
    "He didn't say anything (about taking another job)," Crawford said. "All we talked about on Monday was offseason (workouts)."
    When asked if he thought Alford was staying, he said, "I don't know."
   
152-106 record
    The Iowa sports information department told the Des Moines Register that Alford had not talked to his team and that he was "at his home in Sarasota, Florida, and he would return to Iowa City (today)."
    Alford, who is reportedly making around $1.2 million at Iowa, has four years left on his contract. But he's been on the hot seat. Last week Barta told Alford that next season would be his last at the school unless he saw major improvement.
    Alford is 152-106 in eight seasons at Iowa and 61-67 in the Big Ten. He's taken the Hawkeyes to the NCAA Tournament three times, but they have won just one game there under him.
    Alford's Big Ten road record is 18-46.
    Alford's base pay at Iowa is $925,000. Former Lobo coach Ritchie McKay, who was fired Feb. 22 after five seasons, had a base pay of just under $200,000. But McKay's total package was worth just more than $500,000.
    New Mexico also received permission from Winthrop this week to interview coach Gregg Marshall, and sources say Krebs did just that. But sources say Marshall was told that UNM was moving in a different direction.
    UCLA assistant Kerry Keating was on the Lobos' list as well. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Journal was told that Keating said a UNM official called him to say the job had been offered to Alford and that he would only be considered if an agreement with Alford couldn't be reached.