It's official: Steve Alford tabbed to keep Nevada atop Mountain West

Steve Alford
Steve Alford is Nevada's new head basketball coach. (UCLA athletics)

The Nevada basketball team’s new era has begun.

Steve Alford was named Thursday as the 19th head coach in the program’s history and is tasked with sustaining the Wolf Pack as the Mountain West’s top program after Eric Musselman left for Arkansas.

Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth moved swiftly to replace the highly successful and popular Musselman, who took a struggling Wolf Pack and built it into a Top 25 team and NCAA Tournament regular. Musselman was announced as Arkansas' head coach Sunday, four days before Alford was hired.

“There is no better coach than Steve Alford to continue the rise of Nevada basketball and we are excited for the next chapter,” Knuth said in a news release. “To get a leader of Coach Alford’s caliber is a testament to the support of our community and our university. There is a great tradition of Wolf Pack basketball and the future is even brighter.”

Nevada touched bases with former Wolf Pack coach Trent Johnson and UC Irvine’s Russell Turner, among others, during the process but opted for Alford, sending a message to its fan base it will continue to invest into the program to try and keep it at the national level it rose to under Musselman.

Alford has had success at both the power-conference and in the Mountain West where he won six conference championships and three coach of the year awards in six season at New Mexico before leaving for UCLA, where Alford made three Sweet 16s but never advanced past that round in five-plus years before being fired on New Year's Eve.

Alford is 509-269 overall in his four Division I head-coaching stops, which also included stints at Iowa and Missouri State. He’s reached 11 NCAA Tournaments in 24 Division I seasons, going 11-11 in the Big Dance with four Sweet 16 appearances, which is the furthest he’s gotten as a coach in the event. As a player, Alford won a national title at Indiana, as well as a gold medal before a four-year NBA career.

"To be able to continue my career in a tight-knit community that has demonstrated its support for the basketball program is exactly the opportunity that Tanya and I were looking for, and we are thrilled to be in Northern Nevada,” Alford said in a news release. “I can’t wait to get to work as we look to build off the established tradition and momentum of this great program. I want this to be the last stop of my coaching career."

At Nevada, Alford inherits a program looking to take the next step into the national relevancy, or at least maintain its spot atop the MW. The Wolf Pack is coming off three straight MW regular-season championships, only the third school in the league’s history to accomplish that. Nevada also has reached three straight NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 berth in 2018, while winning 28, 29 and 29 games in each of the last three years.

Financial terms of Alford’s 10-year contract were not released by Nevada but he is expected to at least meet the $1 million per season Musselman made before he left for Arkansas, where he will get paid $2.5 million a year.

Alford inherits a Wolf Pack roster in turmoil. Jordan Brown, Jazz Johnson, Jalen Harris, K.J. Hymes, Nisre Zouzoua, Jalen Townsell and JoJo Anderson have all entered the transfer portal while junior-college transfer Eric Parrish has requested a release from his letter of intent. Nevada has released LSU transfer Daryl Edwards from his letter.

Only Lindsey Drew, Shamiel Stevenson and Mike Lewis II have opted against putting their name in the transfer portal, although Alford could re-recruit some of these players back into the fold.

Nevada will hold an introductory press conference for Alford on Friday at Lawlor Events starting at 2 p.m. Fans are free to attend and are asked to enter through gate 22.

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