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Mizzou Basketball Coaching Search: Steve Alford

Well ... if his name is floating out there and we need Sunday content, I guess I should profile this guy just to cover my bases, eh? I really don't think this is tremendously likely, but ... he was a candidate last time around, and he has won a lot of games, so ... let's at least talk about him, eh?

Previous Relevant Profiles:
-- Scott Sutton
-- Gregg Marshall
-- Chris Mack
-- Randy Bennett
-- Shaka Smart
-- Chris Mooney
-- Ben Jacobson

Steve Alford, New Mexico Head Coach

Career Record: 406-222 (78-29 at Manchester, 78-48 at SMS, 152-106 at Iowa, 98-39 at New Mexico).

Accomplishments: In four years, he got Manchester College to the Division III finals. In four years, he got SMS to the Sweet 16. In three years, he got New Mexico a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament and won his second straight Mountain West title. Really, the only stop in his coaching career that didn't result in strong success was Iowa ... but an Alford supporter would probably point out that he had a winning record for seven straight years in Iowa City ... and the Hawkeyes have had four straight losing seasons since his departure.

Before He Was a Head Coach: After his high school and college careers made him a legend in the state of Indiana (he was Indiana's "Mr. Basketball" in 1983 and was a two-time All-American at Indiana, helping to lead the Hoosiers to the national title), he bounced around the NBA for four seasons before jumping right into the coaching profession with a head coaching job. He quickly built Manchester College (Indiana) into a winner, jumped to Springfield, and you know the rest.

Ties to the Midwest: He's a god in Indiana, and he's coached in Indiana, Iowa and Missouri.

Ties to Missouri: That school down in Springfield certainly liked the job he did.

Does He See Mizzou As a Destination Job? Probably. He's still only 46 years old, but once you've been deemed a failure at a major conference job, you probably won't play too many games or look around too much if you get promoted back to the "big leagues," so to speak.

Can He Recruit? Actually, yeah. Let's put it this way: in his four recruiting years at New Mexico, Alford has brought in players with star ratings very similar to those Mike Anderson brought to Missouri. Rivals has 15 New Mexico commits listed for that time -- two 2-stars, 11 3-stars and two 4-stars. He aims high, and if the major conference draw allows him to land a couple more highly-ranked guys here, then he would quickly put together a strong base of talent.

This Year's Recruits (i.e. Players Who Might or Might Not Come With Him): SG Dominique Dunning (***, 6'3, 180, Corona, CA) and C Cheir Ajou (**, 7'1, 210, Culver, IN) are signed. SF Dominique McKoy (***, 6'7, 205, Atlanta, GA, offers from Oregon State, New Mexico and a ton of mid-majors like UAB) is still floating out there.

New Mexico's Ken Pomeroy Stats

UNM's Four-Year Average
Ken Pom Rankings

UNM Offense UNM Defense
Tempo 178.3
Efficiency 41.0
Effective FG% 59.5
Turnover % 63.3
Off. Reb. % 137.5
FTA/FGA 44.3
3PA/FGA 121.5
A/FGM 46.3

Statistical Tendencies: Well, say this for Steve Alford: he appears to have a lot of Bobby Knight's coaching personality in him. His teams move the ball well and take good shots, block out like crazy, and get to the line a ton. (Plus, if we're looking for other Knight tendencies, he's apparently developed -- fairly or unfairly -- the reputation of being a total jerk as well.) New Mexico has been one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country during Alford's tenure -- 2010-11 was the first time they finished out of the top ten in the category ... they finished all of 22nd -- and they have ranked 55th or better in Ken Pomeroy's overall rankings every year that he's been in Albuquerque. There's a lot to like here, actually. The negatives: they're going to allow you a ton of 3-point attempts (they don't always go in, but sometimes they do), they're only decent on the offensive glass, and ... while they draw a ton of fouls, they also commit a ton of fouls. They are a physical team, and they bring along all the goods and bads of that classification.

Would He Come Here? Yes. Next question...

Thoughts: It's funny. Looking at his profile and looking at his overall W-L record, Alford is a strong coach who is probably deserving of another opportunity at a major school. His New Mexico teams finished 11-5, 12-4 and 14-2 in his first three years in Albuquerque before a step backwards this year (they finished 8-8 despite a strong KenPom rank, thanks mostly to the fact that, at one point in conference play, they lost four consecutive games by six points or less). He has a long, mostly successful resume as a head coach, and if Mike Alden really is drawn to him, there are plenty of reasons why.

(I would, however, like to know how the 2010-11 Lobos managed to rank 47th in KenPom's rankings -- just a couple of spots below Missouri -- while still managing to lose to California, Wyoming, Utah twice, Northern Iowa and Dayton, all of whom rank 100th or worse in KenPom's rankings. In 2008-09, they ranked 39th while losing to Drake, Central Florida and Wyoming. If he came here, I assume Mizzou's overall quality of play would be pretty high ... but they would possibly not become any less immune to the road slip-ups we've seen the last couple of years.)

But the name "Steve Alford" carries with it some serious connotations at this point. People in Iowa just hated him by the end of his tenure, and while he certainly won at a reasonable level there ("reasonable" compared to what has followed since he left, anyway), it really does appear that he has built quite the jerkish reputation. Warranted? I have no idea. Probably. Ask Iowa fans, who, the moment it looked like Matt Painter was coming to Missouri, posted this. Could he succeed here? Yes. Could he overcome whatever negative reputation he has built? Yes, either by a) not being a jerk, or b) winning a lot.

All that said ... WOW would this be a tough move from a P.R. perspective. Alford is almost certainly a better coach than people think at this point (honestly, his ceiling is higher than most candidates we've discussed), and I'm usually the first person to say that P.R. shouldn't matter -- wins take care of P.R. -- but ... Mike Alden better be really, really, really, really, really, really, really sure he knows what he's getting into by hiring Alford. Justified or not, there would be absolute outrage at this hire, especially coming on the heels of the Matt Painter near-miss (which some fans really did manage to turn into yet another reason Alden should be fired). Aiming for Matt Painter and getting Alford would be seen as an epic failure, and attendance would almost certainly suffer for a while unless he managed to immediately win big.

For this reason, I still think Alford is a backup candidate. That this would be the second straight coaching search in which Alden considered him is reason enough to take him seriously, but ... I'm still not thinking he will be the next Missouri head coach.