Alford Era Ends Peacefully

Steve Alford talked about his time at Iowa in a positive light when he met with the New Mexico media on Friday, and Hawkeye officials thanked the outgoing coach for his time in Iowa City. The divorce thankfully lacked mudslinging. The search is on for the next men's basketball coach at Iowa.

Despite the hideous red sport coat he was donning, Steve Alford stood in front of the New Mexico media and hangers on shining like a new trophy on Friday.

I know. I know. Some of you remember Alford for his insensitivities in the Pierre Pierce case, the inability early in his Iowa career to accept blame for his team's shortcomings and his perceived arrogance. As a Hawkeye fan, eight years gave you a chance to form your opinion.

For a moment, wipe that from your mind. Imagine how his introductory press conference is playing to the fans in Albuquerque. They're excited.

Alford looked smooth on Friday. He said all the right things. He complimented his new employers and the fan base and didn't throw any poison darts at the Iowa program.

I wrote on the HN boards that I hoped Steve would take the high road. He did. He talked about this being a good time to move for his family and didn't focus on the negative vibes he was getting in Iowa.

"I loved my time at Iowa," Alford said. "The people at Iowa were tremendous. I had a great administration. I had no family in Iowa but had a great experience. I grew as a coach; worked with some great people. I had some great players I enjoyed."

Yeah, if you're thin skinned you might imply that his love fest with the passion of Lobos fans and administration was a dig at Iowa. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. Each person took it however he or she wanted to take it.

For me, I enjoyed the public persona Alford projected on Friday. He answered questions politely and with wit. It was the guy I saw over the last few years at Iowa. It wasn't the guy I saw when he showed up in his mid-30s at Iowa. I wish it was. Maybe things could have been different here.

It was tough at times to root for the Alford from the first few years at Iowa. The condescending way he blamed players for his early failures with the Hawkeyes rubbed me the wrong way. The new Steve Alford most times took at least part of the blame for the team shortcomings.

People can say that stuff doesn't matter to them. That's fine. But I think it bothered some folks. And it played a role in hurting Alford's approval rating among Hawkeye fans. They're a unique breed.

Alford talked about growing up, learning and maturing during his time at Iowa. He was right. He grew on the job here and the Steve Alford New Mexico got is a better coach that understands the landscape of being in the public eye a lot better than when he arrived here eight years ago.

I have a funny feeling that Alford will work in Albuquerque. I'm fine with that because he wouldn't have worked here. History prevents that. He gets to play a new hand at New Mexico.

Iowa also gets dealt a new hand. AD Gary Barta is excited about that opportunity.

You hear the term "good fit" in sports often. It comes from the mouths of coaches, recruits and ADs.

Barta threw it out there on Friday at his press conference in Iowa City. For him, and I believe this to be the case, he needs to find someone that fits.

Yeah, the guy has to coach and win and fill the seats and all of that. But Barta needs to hire someone who connects with the fan base, one that is fractured right now.

That's a challenge for Barta, who has been on the job less than a year. But the AD goes into this having helped with two major hires at Washington. His time in the business with allow him to dissect prospects' personalities. That's important.

A "good fit" is kind of like "chemistry." It's hard to define, but you know if it isn't present.

Barta talked about hiring someone with experience and success as a head coach. I think that will include "extensive." Iowa needs somebody that can handle this fishbowl.

"When you hire somebody, that's the most important thing you do in this position," Barta said. "I don't lose sleep over it. But we're defined by the people that work in our program. And the men's basketball program is high visibility."

He gets it. Let's hope he gets him.

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