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Kayla Alford has given up on trying to convince her dad, Steve, that the cherry blazer he sometimes wears to the office is hideous, at least in the eyes of a fashion savvy teenage girl.
As a small consolation, she at least chooses his ties for him before he leaves home.
But Dad also gets to accessorize, as he did Saturday afternoon when for the fourth time in five seasons he was able to throw a net around his neck after winning a regular season Mountain West Conference championship.
“It’s the red blazer that was put on me when I was hired (before the 2007-08 season),” University of New Mexico men’s basketball head coach Steve Alford said after the Lobos beat Wyoming 53-42 to also secure the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Tournament.
“It will always be that. My daughter’s begging for me to exchange the gold buttons for silver, and then she said it would be OK because it’s red and silver. But then it wouldn’t be the jacket they gave me when they hired me. I don’t want to mess with that. I don’t want to mess with karma.
“But I think what puts the red blazer over the top is when you can put a net around it.”
To the majority of the 15,411 capacity crowd in the Pit on Saturday, the postgame look of their beloved coach was picture perfect.
Their appreciation of him and his program goes both ways.
“I think from Day 1, my first game in here, I felt a fan base that really appreciated guys that work hard and played unselfishly,” Alford said.
While there is still work to be done for this team — two more regular season games, a conference tournament and then the NCAA Tournament — Saturday was about celebration and appreciation.
Before he and his team took turns cutting down the nets, the traditional postgame routine of championship teams, Alford took to the microphone and addressed the sellout crowd, raving about four seniors that took part in their last game in the Pit — active players Jamal Fenton of Houston and Chad Adams from Albuquerque, inactive player Emmanuel Negedu of Nigeria who hasn’t played the past two seasons due to a heart condition, and four-year team manager Kevin McCurdy.
“This has been a tremendously disciplined team,” Alford said between thunderous ovations from the crowd. “And it’s been an absolute joy to be a part of this with them.”
To the thousands in the Pit crowd still cheering another title more than an hour after the Wyoming game was completed, they couldn’t think of anything more enjoyable than seeing Alford toss at least one more net around that cherry blazer in the coming weeks.
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