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Originally published March 30, 2013 at 7:10 PM | Page modified April 4, 2013 at 4:32 PM

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Alford takes over as UCLA coach

Steve Alford, who spent the past six seasons at New Mexico, will take over the basketball program at UCLA less than two weeks after saying...

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LOS ANGELES — Steve Alford, who spent the past six seasons at New Mexico, will take over the basketball program at UCLA less than two weeks after saying how happy he was to be signing a contract extension to remain coach of the Lobos.

The hiring came at the end of a hectic week in which two other mid-major coaches — Butler's Brad Stevens and Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart — said they weren't interested in the job, according to a person close to the situation who was not authorized to speak on the matter.

So athletic director Dan Guerrero turned to Alford, who agreed to be the latest coach to have John Wooden's hefty legacy placed on his back.

Alford has agreed to a seven-year, $18.2 million contract.

Alford was 155-52 at New Mexico, though his Lobos teams never made it past the first weekend in three NCAA tournament appearances. He had signed a 10-year contract extension, worth more than $20 million, earlier this month, but opted to take on the UCLA job.

"This is truly a leap of faith," said Alford, 48. "It's a little easier when it's UCLA. An opportunity like this doesn't come around every day."

With the opportunity comes expectations.

Guerrero said Alford has the pedigree to handle what has crushed other coaches at UCLA. Alford was Indiana's "Mr. Basketball" and played at Indiana under Bob Knight, winning a national championship in 1987.

"I don't think there is anyone better suited for the pressures that come with the job than Steve," Guerrero said.

Alford won three Mountain West Conference titles with New Mexico. But he has taken a team beyond the first weekend in the NCAA tournament only once in his career — Cinderella Missouri State, which reached the Sweet 16 in 1999.

The Lobos were 29-6 this season and were seeded third in the NCAA West Regional, but lost to No. 14 Harvard in their first tournament game.

UCLA officials were looking for more than a coach. They were looking for a marketing campaign. Selling season tickets has been difficult.

"He's a very personable guy," Guerrero said. "When you sit down and talk with him, he's very engaging. I think he'll hit on all cylinders."

Notes

Tubby Smith is in discussions with Texas Tech to become the Red Raiders coach. Smith was fired by Minnesota after six seasons.

• ESPN analyst and former NBA coach Flip Saunders has turned down an offer from Minnesota to be the next head coach at his alma mater, according to a report on ESPN.com.

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