Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Sam Alford probably knows Indiana high school and college hoops as well as just about anyone.
But the retired former president of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, in which the former coach and player himself was inducted in 2002, seems to have just landed a new favorite team.
While some of Sam’s best basketball memories may have come about 90 minutes south in New Castle, Ind., where he coached his sons, Sean and Steve Alford, his basketball heart for the coming season belongs to the Huntington (Ind.) Foresters. On Tuesday, the NAIA program announced the hiring of his grandson, La Cueva High graduate and former University of New Mexico Lobo Kory Alford, as its head coach.
“I know my grandpa is more fired up than he’s ever been. He’s so pumped,” joked Kory Alford in a telephone interview from Reno, Nev., on Tuesday. “… I can’t even put it into words. He was driving around the campus yesterday just sending me pictures.”
Kory Alford, 27, found out he was hired at the private Christian university on Saturday, but sat on the news until the university went public with the announcement on Tuesday. The extra time at home the past several weeks because of the coronavirus public health crisis made him the most prepared he could have ever been for his series of online Zoom job interviews.
The 2011 La Cueva High School graduate was a walk-on at both UNM and UCLA, from which he graduated with a degree in sociology in 2015 before earning a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco in 2017.
Coaching his own basketball program, and starting at a small school instead of climbing the ladder as a Division I assistant, has always been his plan – not unlike his father’s path. Steve Alford was also 27 when he got his first head coaching job at a small, NCAA Division III Indiana school – Manchester University in 1991.
“I think one, the experience of running your own team – running your own program – is something I always wanted. It was the dream that I had,” said Kory Alford. “In talking to my dad over the years and how much he loved his time at Manchester (from 1991-95), it just felt like the thing I wanted to do.”
Kory has been considered a “future” coach since his La Cueva days, which is why he chose to walk on at UNM and UCLA and learn the craft from the inside at a high level.
“Man, he’s going to be an awesome coach,” Kory’s brother, Bryce Alford, told the Journal in 2015 during the Bruins’ Sweet 16 run. “He’s in a good spot learning from my dad and my grandpa and everyone else around here he’s learning from. He’s got a lot of good mentors around him. I think he’s going to be a real good one.”
Since graduating from UCLA, Kory has worked in non-assistant coaching roles on his dad’s staff’s at UCLA and then at Nevada this past season. He likely could land a Division I assistant’s job if he wanted.
Instead, Kory and his wife, Eldorado High graduate Haley Alford (formerly Tricarico), will move to Indiana where he will be the third generation of Alfords to coach in the state.
Dad, despite losing a valued staff member, said he couldn’t be happier.
“Just super proud of him,” Steve Alford wrote in a text message. “He’s really good at what he does. It’s unbelievable how life comes full circle. When I was 27 got my start at Manchester now he’s 27 and gets his start at Huntington the schools are literally 20 miles apart.”
Kory says his brand of coaching will feature a “very, very data driven” approach and, while he has “a million different ideas” in his head, one thing people can expect without a doubt is the Foresters are “definitely going to be a team that shoots quite a few 3s, I can guarantee that much.”
As for one core principle he hopes to emulate from his dad’s teams through the years, Kory had no hesitation.
“It’s consistency,” he said. “I think it’s just ignoring the outside noise and showing up to work every day and just give it your all. … We’ve always been a well-prepared staff and had our players well prepared.”