Steve Alford recalled his coaching influences and earliest memories of basketball in Indiana Tuesday when he joined UCLA officials at a Pauley Pavilion news conference for his introduction as the Bruins' 13th men's basketball head coach.
The 48-year-old former New Mexico coach's hiring was announced by the school Saturday. He had just reached a 10-year contract agreement to remain the head coach of New Mexico, where he spent six seasons after several coaching positions that followed a standout four years at Indiana University.
At Tuesday's news conference, Alford mentioned his earliest memories of basketball and legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, whose birthplace of Hall, Ind. is about 30 miles east of Alford's hometown of Franklin.
Alford's father coached high school basketball at Wooden's alma mater, Martinsville High School.
"In Indiana, you learn basketball before your ABCs," Alford said. "Being an Indiana guy and knowing the roots of coach Wooden, for my life to come full circle where I'm walking into Pauley Pavilion is a very humbling experience."
Alford is perhaps best known for his four seasons as a point guard at Indiana University in the mid-1980s. Alford led the Hoosiers to the 1987 NCAA Championship in his senior season.
He talked Tuesday about the influence of former Indiana coach Bobby Knight.
"I know in the coming days and weeks, coach Knight will be one of those guys I reach out to," Alford said. "He's a mentor."
Alford was part of the 1984 United States gold medal Olympic team in Los Angeles and the No. 26 overall selection in the 1987 NBA Draft. He played four years of professional basketball before his first coaching job in 1992.
Alford led New Mexico to three NCAA tournaments, winning at least 22 games in each season. The Lobos' 2013 season ended with an upset loss to Harvard in an opening round shocker.
Alford also coached at Iowa (2000-07), Missouri State (1996-99) and Manchester College (1992-95).
"I am much more ready than I was 15 years ago for this challenge," Alford said.
The Bruins' season ended with a disappointing loss to Minnesota in the Bruins' first game of the NCAA tournament last month. The firing of coach Ben Howland was announced March 24.