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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico basketball fans were blindsided Saturday by news that coach Steve Alford had been hired away by UCLA.
The Lobos had just wrapped up another winning season that was topped by their second straight Mountain West Conference title and their third NCAA tournament appearance in the past four seasons. And just days ago, Alford signed a new 10-year contract that could have been worth up to $2 million a year.
No one thought Alford was going anywhere.
Not even Alford.
Overnight, it all changed. Lobo Nation is now awash in disappointment.
New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs is among those feeling the effects of the loss. He said it was clear when he talked to Alford early Saturday that the coach had made up his mind. He said he understood and respected the decision.
"This is a very emotional time," Krebs said to a room packed with reporters and television cameras.
For some of the players it has yet to sink in. Lobos center Alex Kirk said they needed to come together and clear their heads.
"It's tough," Kirk said. "It hit us all really hard. It hit coach hard and it's going to hit the whole state hard. I think it affects the whole conference."
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