A look back at UNM's win over George Mason
New Mexico wins two Mountain West titles, 29 games, and gains a new head coach
The Harvard Crimson become an NCAA Cinderella and advance to play Arizona for a Sweet 16 berth
Photos from Wednesday's shootaround in preparation for the Lobos' second-round game vs. Harvard
New Mexico vs. UNLV
New Mexico vs. Colorado State
The Lobos play host to the Falcons of the U.S. Air Force Academy in a conference showdown in The Pit in Albuquerque.
No. 20 New Mexico vs. Nevada - AP Photos
Steve Alford has been UNM's head coach for five seasons, and over that time he has presided over the most successful period in UNM basketball history. Since taking over the reigns for the 2007-08 season, New Mexico has won gone 126-46, winning at least 22 games in each season. UNM has advanced to the postseason all five seasons, including going 2-2 in a pair of NCAA Tournaments, winning three regular season titles in 2009, 2010, and again in 2012. Alford has won a pair of Mountain West Coach of the Year awards, finished the season in the national rankings twice, and his latest team won the 2012 Mountain West Conference Tournament.
Saying he has made an impression on the sidelines of the Lobos is an understatement. He is 126-46 (.733) at UNM. Alford has more wins, a higher winning percentage and more regular-season conference titles than any previous Lobo coach after five seasons. The Lobos have finished the season nationally-ranked twice in the last three years, including finishing 23rd in the 2012 final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, the only team in the Mountain or Pacific Time Zones to be ranked.
While presiding over the best five-year stretch in school history probably is all that needs said, the superlatives for the program over the past five seasons are nothing short of bewildering.
New Mexico has always taken care of games in The Pit, and Alford's teams have kept that tradition alive with a 77-10 home record, but UNM has a program record 38 road wins over the past five years, and Alford's teams own the top four marks for most road wins in back-to-back seasons.
UNM's three regular season league titles in the last four years equaled the total UNM picked up in the previous 40 seasons. UNM has had seven different winning streaks of seven games or more, including a 13 and 15-game streak, the fourth and second-longest in school history.
And it's not like UNM is just fattening up on the weak. The Lobos under Alford are 12-6 vs. nationally-ranked teams. Plus, UNM has put together a neat streak, as five different Lobos in the last four years have all broken the 1,000-point barrier. UNM has also had a pair of NBA draft picks under Alford.
Along with the successes on the court, Alford is probably more proud of the successes off the court. Aside from his team's constant interaction with the local community in the form of service projects (the team spent 494 hours working with the local community last year), UNM basketball has shined academically. UNM basketball's APR has increased all five seasons, and the team has a team record eight straight semesters of a 2.7 grade point average. In 2011, the squad had five players earn Mountain West All-Academic honors, the most in eight seasons. Overall UNM has had 10 players earn Mountain West All-Academic honors, including a pair of Mountain West Scholar-Athlete selections.
Perhaps the strongest testament to the program's current stature is in the record for all-time winningest players. In 2011, Dairese Gary set the record for scholarship players with 98 career victories, and that record lasted just one season, as Phillip McDonald and A.J. Hardeman ended their careers with 102 wins, the most wins ever by a scholarship player, and tying for the most ever, regardless of scholarship status. Ironically, that record is in jeopardy of getting broken again in 2012-13, as UNM's two seniors Jamal Fenton and Chad Adams will enter the season 22 wins away, as they have recorded 80 in their first three years.
The 2011-12 season saw the Lobos finish 28-7 overall, and earn a share of the Mountain West regular season title, the third in four years. The 28 wins tied for the second-most in school history after UNM's 30-win season two years ago. After a 2-2 start, the Lobos reeled off a 13-game winning streak, the fourth-longest in school history. The Lobos eventually finished 10-4 in the Mountain West, and then tore through Air Force, UNLV, and San Diego State in the conference tournament to win the school's first MW Tournament title since 2005. UNM never trailed in the championship game, and senior post Drew Gordon was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
The anchor of the team was its defense, finishing in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, and rebound margin. The Lobos recorded the lowest defensive field goal percentage since UNM's 1964-65 season.
The team did it away from home, winning a school record 14 games away from The Pit's friendly confines, and the team also went a perfect 5-0 in the regular season against BCS league opponents.
In 2010-11, having one of the youngest teams in the nation didn't deter the Lobos, who racked up 22 wins, and picked up a win in the postseason, beating UTEP in the NIT. Alford showcased his recruiting acumen as UNM picked up both the conference's Newcomer of the Year, and Freshmen of the Year awards. New Mexico was the only team in 2010-11 to defeat the nation's #1 RPI team twice, beating BYU 86-77 in The Pit, and 82-64 in Provo. On February 1, 2011, Alford recorded his 400th coaching win, a 75-61 win over Air Force.
Despite having just one senior in 2009-10, New Mexico finished 30-5 while setting a school record for wins and playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years. UNM was a No. 3 seed in the East Region and advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time since 1999. The Lobos were ranked in the top-25 for 12 weeks and finished No. 8 in the final AP poll, the second-highest in school history. UNM was picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West Conference each of the past two seasons.
The Lobos tied for the title in 2008-09 by winning its last five games. In 2009-10, New Mexico started 0-2 in league play, but ripped off a conference and school-record 14 straight wins to claim its first outright conference championship in 16 years. Alford has been chosen MWC Coach of the Year twice in four seasons. In 2011-12, the Lobos started 1-2 but went 9-2 down the stretch to earn a share of another league title. He is 55-23 in five seasons of conference play. The Lobos' lowest finish under Alford is fifth place in 2010-11. However, Alford's squads have produced back-to-back seasons of 16 road wins (2008-09 & 2009-10, and 2009-10 & 2010-11) twice, the most in school history.
As a team, the Lobos have put up some impressive numbers in five seasons with Alford at the helm:
A look back some of the records set over the past three seasons
In his first season (2007-08) at New Mexico, Alford recorded 24 wins, the most by a Lobo head coach in his rookie season.
In his second season, Alford was named the 2008-09 Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Lobos to a share of the MWC regular season title, the first UNM boss to earn the award in the MWC. Surprisingly, it is Alford's first coaching accolade at the NCAA Division I level. And to top off his 2008-09 season, Alford was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on March 25, 2009. Alford was one of 14 members in the Class of 2009, along with NBA coaches Gregg Popovich and Scott Skiles. Alford is just the eighth honoree to be selected in his first year of eligibility joining other notable Indiana products Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird. Arguably the biggest accomplishment for Alford in his time at UNM has been his ability to teach, blend and mold undersized and possibly less talented groups into cohesive units that have became the epitome of "team" basketball. He has changed the mindset and work ethic of the program and the Lobos have responded by playing the game "the right way." That concept was never more evident than in the play of former Lobo and current Boston Celtic J.R. Giddens. Before Alford came to town, Giddens was seen as an enigmatic talent with a ton of potential, but a difficult teammate and a tough player to coach.
Alford laid down the law to Giddens immediately, keeping him home from a 2007 spring trip to the Bahamas so he could concentrate on his floundering academic situation. Giddens got the message and became the consummate teammate, a transformation so dramatic that it left fans and pundits shaking their heads in amazement. Alford took a wayward - but extremely gifted - young man and tutored him into maturity on and off the floor.
Largely responsible for the Lobos' improved play, Giddens was the 2008 Co-Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference, District VIII Player of the Year by the United States Basketball Writers Association and an Associated Press honorable mention All-American.
The 6-foot-5 Giddens became the first guard to lead the MWC in rebounding. He and Utah's Andrew Bogut (a 7-footer) are the only two players in the 10-year history of the league to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding in MWC games.
Despite ranking eighth in the league in minutes played at 32.2, Giddens was the only player in the MWC who ranked in the top-10 in the MWC in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, assists, steals and blocks. He is the only Lobo to ever reach 500 points, 250 rebounds, 100 assists, 40 steals and 30 blocks in a season.
Giddens' diligence was rewarded on June 26, 2008, when the 2007 World Champion Boston Celtics selected him in the first round of the NBA Draft. Giddens is the first Alford-coached player chosen in the first round.
Still a youthful 48, Alford has patrolled the sidelines for 21 seasons at four institutions. Alford, who has never been an assistant coach during his career, has a 434-229 (65%) career record as a head coach, 126-46 at New Mexico. His teams have qualified for postseason play 16 times, including 11 of the past 12 seasons, produced 18 winning seasons and reached 21 wins on 13 occasions.
Alford came to UNM after spending the previous eight seasons as the head coach at the University of Iowa.
In eight seasons at Iowa, Alford compiled a 152-106 record with a school-record seven consecutive winning seasons, and six postseason appearances. The Hawkeyes won two Big Ten Conference tournament titles (2001 and '06).
Prior to Iowa, Alford posted a 78-29 record in four seasons (1992-95) at NCAA Division III Manchester (Ind.) College and a four-year (1996-99) record of 78-48 at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State). The Bears defeated Wisconsin and Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 1999 NCAA Tournament before losing to top-ranked Duke in the regional semifinals. In 1997 Alford led the Bears to a 24-9 record (second in the Missouri Valley Conference) and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament.
Alford joined the collegiate coaching ranks at Manchester (Ind.) College in 1992, taking over a team that had lost its first eight games. After winning four of 20 games that season, Alford led Manchester to a 20-8 mark in his first full year of 1992-93.
Alford began his coaching career after a four-year playing stint in the NBA, spending most of his career with the Dallas Mavericks and a portion of one season with Golden State. He was the 26th selection in the 1987 NBA Draft. Alford played for former Iowa basketball standout Don Nelson in the NBA.
A native of New Castle, Ind., Alford was a prep standout for his father, Sam Alford, at New Castle Chrysler High School. He earned Indiana's Mr. Basketball Award in 1983 after averaging 37.7 points per game as a senior.
During his collegiate career at Indiana, Alford started all but five of 125 games, helping the Hoosiers post a four-year mark of 92-35. Alford served as head coach Bob Knight's team captain in 1987 when Indiana posted a 30-4 overall record and won the national championship.
Alford concluded his college career as Indiana's all-time scoring leader with 2,438 points and he became the first player to win the Indiana MVP award four times. He is also Indiana's career leader in steals and 3-point field goal percentage. Alford was a consensus first team all-America selection and the Big Ten MVP as a senior.
Alford earned first team all-Big Ten honors in each of his final three seasons and also earned all-America honors as a junior. He was named to the NIT all-tourney team as a sophomore when the Hoosiers finished second to UCLA. His career free throw percentage of .897 (535-596) ranks fourth best in NCAA history and he led the nation in free throw percentage as a freshman.
In 1997, Alford was inducted into the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame and in 2001 he was one of 15 players selected to Indiana's all-Century team. He was one of five players named to ESPN's Big Ten Conference Silver Anniversary team in 2004. The Sporting News recently published Legends of College Basketball, a publication that recalled the careers of the 100 greatest Division I college basketball players. Alford was No. 35 on the list.
Following his freshman season at Indiana, Alford was selected to play for the United States basketball team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He shot 64.4% percent from the field, averaged 10.3 points per game and was second on the team in assists as the U.S. collegians won the gold medal.
The 1984 team marked the last U.S. amateur squad to win the gold medal and Alford's teammates included Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins, Chris Mullin and Waymon Tisdale.
Alford was born Nov. 23, 1964, in Franklin, Ind. He holds a bachelor's degree in business from Indiana University. Alford is married to the former Tanya Frost, whom he has known since the two were schoolmates in grade school in New Castle. The Alfords have three children: Kory, Bryce and Kayla.
Steve Alford's Year-by-Year Head Coaching Record
Steve Alford Quick Facts
1984 USA Olympic Basketball Team (gold medal)
1987-88 Dallas Mavericks (NBA)