LOS ANGELES — UCLA hired Steve Alford as basketball coach on Saturday, luring him from New Mexico days after he signed a new 10-year deal with the Lobos.
Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said Alford is “the perfect fit for UCLA” because he connects with a new generation of players and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented style of play to Westwood.
“He’s ready for this stage,” Guerrero said on a teleconference.
Alford agreed to a seven-year deal worth $18.2 million, with a yearly salary of $2.6 million, according to Guerrero. He will receive a $200,000 signing bonus.
Alford will be introduced at UCLA on Tuesday.
“I have been so fortunate and blessed in my life, and an opportunity to lead one of the greatest programs in college basketball history is once-in-a-lifetime,” he said in a statement.
Alford’s deal with New Mexico was worth more than $20 million over 10 years. Guerrero said Alford is responsible for a buyout of his contract in Albuquerque, but that UCLA would work out the details.
Guerrero said UCLA reached out to Alford first, not knowing whether he would be interested in the Bruins. Once he confirmed he was, the details were finalized early Saturday, Guerrero said.
“He’s not the kind of guy that will shy away from what UCLA basketball is all about,” the athletic director said.
Alford, who is 48, succeeds Ben Howland, who was fired last weekend after 10 years and a 233-107 record that included three consecutive Final Four appearances and four Pac-12 titles. The Bruins were 25-10 this season, which ended with a 20-point loss to Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Alford led New Mexico to a 29-6 record this season that included the Mountain West regular-season and tournament titles. But the Lobos were upset by Harvard in the second round of the NCAAs shortly after Alford’s new contract had been announced.
His son, Bryce, was set to play for his father with the Lobos, continuing a tradition that Alford first established when he played under his own father, Sam, at New Castle Chrysler High in Indiana.
Alford had a 155-52 record in six years at New Mexico, with the Lobos making three trips to the NCAA tournament. He was selected Mountain West coach of the year three times.
Guerrero had said he wanted a coach who would help boost season ticket sales. The Bruins had just a few sellouts at newly renovated Pauley Pavilion this season.
“I think the UCLA family will embrace him. I think he’ll be able to hit on all cylinders,” Guerrero said. “He’ll be able to energize the fan base in so many ways. Look at New Mexico, they get 15,000 a game, it’s madness there.”
His other head coaching stints were at Iowa (2000-07), Missouri State (1996-99) and Manchester College (1992-95) in his native Indiana.
Alford is a legend in the Hoosier state, where he starred at Indiana University from 1984-87 under Coach Bob Knight. The Hoosiers won the national championship in his senior year. He also played on the gold medal-winning 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team in Los Angeles as a college sophomore. Knight coached that team.
Alford was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1987 and played four years in the NBA before starting his head coaching career at tiny Division III Manchester.
As a high school senior, Alford averaged 37.7 points and was Indiana Mr. Basketball.
Besides Bryce, Alford and his wife, Tanya, have a son, Kory, and a daughter, Kayla.