Miller: Contradictions from Alford

Seven days ago, Steve Alford was introduced as New Mexico's basketball coach. When Alford was introduced in Albuquerque, he seemingly went peacefully into that good night. But this week, things have taken a different course on a number of levels. HN.com Jon Miller highlights some of this week's activity and some comments from Iowa's former coach that are not sitting well in Hawkeye Nation

This has been quite a busy week here in Hawkeye Nation. It was just seven days ago that Steve Alford was introduced as New Mexico's basketball coach, and eight days ago when he told his former Iowa players that he was headed to the Land of Lobos.

When Steve Alford was introduced at his press conference, which was broadcast on my radio show on 1460 KXNO, Alford said all the right things, if you will. More than just a few Iowa fans were thinking either privately or aloud that if Alford only showed that level of humility and grace during some of the stormier parts of his eight years at Iowa, what might have been.

HawkeyeNation.com Senior Writer Rob Howe wrote a story on that press conference last week, titled Alford Era Ends Peacefully. Click on that link to read it, and you can peruse some of Alford's comments at his press conference.

Let me pull out one quote from Howe's piece:

""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."

Upon hearing Alford's New Mexico press conference, I even felt a bit bad about predicting that the presser would be on full spin cycle from Alford and would contain some parting shots. I was wrong about that…or at least, I was wrong that the official gathering of high ranking New Mexico officials and glad handlers would be Alford's launching pad for the salvo's; I wasn't wrong that the spin was forthcoming.

That began to arrive on Monday, when Alford gave an interview to ESPN Radio's Trey Wingo. The Iowa City Press Citizen wrote a nice recap of that interview, and it's LINKED HERE

Here is a snippet from that article/Alford's ESPN Radio Interview:

Alford specifically cited what he perceived to be Iowa's commitment to football over basketball when asked about his move, something he cited to his Iowa players Thursday when he told them of his move. Alford was asked if it was difficult to coach that "second" program on campus.

"It's real difficult if they're not in line with one another as far as commitment levels," Alford told ESPN Radio's Trey Wingo. "Because the recruits see that, and the recruits see the commitment. I can talk for eight years all I want at Iowa about trying to get my own strength coach, my own weight room and own practice facility, but when that never happens and $100 million is being put into football complexes, recruits see that.

"That's what I'm excited about here. We've got an incredible, state-of-the-art, brand new practice facility. The Pit sells itself. There are very few venues across the country that are as well established as The Pit. And the fans here, it's about basketball.

I encourage you to read the entire article.

On Thursday afternoon, Alford gave an interview to 810 WHB out of Kansas City. Here is a link to an Iowa City Press Citizen article that contains some of what Alford said: CLICK HERE

Here is a snippet:

"I never said anything about support," Alford said on WHB. "You might have read that off Internet sites in Iowa, but it never came from me.

"It was more about the commitment that New Mexico had. It's a place that's always been very interesting to me just because its one of those venues in college basketball that's pretty special."

"I never said anything about support."

Well, I guess this comes down to opinion then. I guess we are supposed to believe that what Alford said on ESPN Radio, referenced above, that wasn't talking about your opinion on there being a lack of support for basketball in favor of football, at Iowa? I will admit to being a bit cross eyed on this entire topic, but I think I can still make out what's being said and why it's being said here.

Maybe I am alone in thinking that these two sets of Alford quotes are quite contradictory of one another, but I am not alone in not being surprise by it. (By the way, I highly recommend reading the entire Press Citizen article I linked immediately above this. Alford talks about ‘internets' and how there is ‘a lot of money in business these days'.)

There were other revelations this week from signed Iowa commitments such as Jake Kelly and Jarryd Cole. Kelly told HawkeyeNation.com, The Cedar Rapids Gazette and The Indianapolis Star that Alford had contacted him and talked about Kelly's coming to New Mexico. In one of the articles, Kelly said that Alford had contacted him at least a week before Alford accepted the job, to bring up the possibility.

Alford's response to this?

In a story that appeared in the Des Moines Register, LINKED HERE, Alford said the following:

"We didn't do anything wrong," Alford told the Albuquerque Journal, referring to himself and assistant coach Craig Neal, who is following him to New Mexico. "We did what we had to do for the kids' sake. I don't think you can just leave them hanging. It's not like we're calling them every day. We made an initial phone call. Now if the kids want to call us and inquire about things, we'll take those phone calls."

While I agree that placing a call to a kid that you have had a relationship for years is appropriate, this website and two other newspapers have quotes from Kelly that have him saying that Alford and/or Neal talked to him about joining them at New Mexico, you have Kelly saying that Alford talked to him about New Mexico at least a week before actually accepting the job, and you have Jaryd Cole saying things eerily similar to what Alford has been telling ESPN and everyone else, such as:

"They explained to me that it's a basketball school and you don't have to deal with football. They're putting a bunch of money in their arena and building a practice facility that will open this year. That sounds good." Jarryd Cole to HawkeyeNation.com on Tuesday, March 27th, linked HERE

That sounds a lot like what Alford told ESPN Radio: "That's what I'm excited about here (New Mexico). We've got an incredible, state-of-the-art, brand new practice facility. The Pit sells itself. There are very few venues across the country that are as well established as The Pit. And the fans here, it's about basketball."

Does that make it OK and ethical, because they are doing what they are doing for the kid's sake?

If any player that has signed a letter of intent with Iowa wants out of his letter intent after he meets Iowa's yet to be named coach, I certainly hope Iowa lets them out of that LOI and go where they wish, including New Mexico. When adults step in and mess around with kids, that's when I have a bit time problem. I would expect Gary Barta to do just that, if it comes to it.

As for Alford and what he has been saying this week, there are four or five more sets of quotes that are about as contradictory as what I have brought up already, including Craig Neal's recent radio revelation that New Mexico has put more players in the NBA over the last 15 years (which I don't even think is accurate, and even if it is, his boss was Iowa's coach for more than half of those years and therefore whatever point Neal was trying to make is somewhat moot), but that would just be overkill.

I have noticed on the HawkeyeNation.com message boards, in my email and from callers into my radio show that even some people that were still vigilant supporters and Defenders of Alford (or to use an acronym, D.O.A.) even after he left last week are beginning to change their tune, based on what they are hearing and reading this week. And what they are reading and hearing are Alford's own words, not reports from ‘the internets', which are just too contradictory to not cause them to reevaluate their thoughts on the coach.

I would really like to not care about all of this, to be totally honest with you. Some will scoff at that. That's fine. You are entitled to your opinion. Since I didn't personally hear all of these comments, I am trusting that the professional journalists that have reported them have done so accurately and fairly. Given that we are talking about industry veterans like Susan Harman, Randy Petersen and Rob Howe, my guess is that they have been.

Alford must feel that his ‘legacy' at Iowa has been misrepresented, that it has not been appreciated as much as he feels it should be, by some folks in the media. Again, he is entitled to his opinion.

Regardless of my personal feelings, I care about Iowa Basketball first and foremost. To carry personal grudges through a season, given the number of people that visit this site and listen to the radio show or watch the Cy-Hawk Talk TV show on Mediacom; that would have been harmful to the Iowa Basketball program, something I care about.

I never intentionally try to hurt my family, and I have said numerous times through the years that Iowa fans, me included, view the Hawkeyes as though they are a member of the family.

Do we sometimes get after it with our own family members? Absolutely. But when outsiders get after it with our family, we typically come together and come to the defense of our family.

Which brings me back full circle here.

I don't want Steve Alford to keep being the main topic on the message boards and on my radio show, but the things he continues to say have to be responded to. Or rather, I feel the need to respond to them. It's almost more than a need; I feel an obligation to respond to them via the public forums that I am fortunate to be associated with.

A Hawkeye friend reminded me recently to conduct myself in manners that are fair, honest and factual. I appreciated that reminder. We all need such things from time to time.

So here it goes.

Steve Alford can hold to whatever his opinion is of the support, lack there of, emphasis on football, etc that he experienced during his time at Iowa. He is entitled to his opinion.

However, to use such things as an answer to the question of ‘why would you leave Iowa and the Big Ten for a job in a lesser conference' is not wholly accurate. I am not saying that his opinion is wrong, but we cannot overlook the elephant in the room, and that elephant just isn't getting the same air time, and that elephant is something that Iowa needs some light shone on, in its defense.

Honesty & Facts:

-The eight years of the Steve Alford era at Iowa saw the Hawkeyes win its only two Big Ten titles of any kind since 1979; those were Big Ten tournament titles in 2001 & 2006.
-Iowa made it to three NCAA tournaments in Alford's eight years, or 37.5% of the time. Between 1979, Iowa's last regular season Big Ten crown and Dr. Tom Davis' last season in 1999, a span of 21 years, Iowa made 16 NCAA tournament appearances, or 76.1% of the time.
-Iowa lost in the first round in two of those three appearances. Of Tom Davis' nine NCAA appearances, Iowa never lost in the first round.
-Iowa had five losing records in Big Ten regular season play in Alford's eight years. During the aforementioned 21 year span of 1979-1999, Iowa had just three losing seasons in Big Ten play.
-Alford's Big Ten regular season record at Iowa was 61-67 over eight years, a winning percentage of .477. Since 1920, the only Iowa coaches with a worse regular season conference winning percentage than Alford were Dick Schultz (.357) and Sharm Schuerman (.452)

-OPINION: When one evaluates performance based on Big Ten regular season totals, the eight years of the Steve Alford era produced the worst rolling eight year Big Ten winning percentage at Iowa since 1971-1978, and the first four years of that sampling were the aforementioned Schultz years, considered by Iowa Basketball historians to be the low-water mark in modern day Iowa basketball history.

And of Alford's 61-67 Big Ten regular season record; 29 of those 61 wins, or 47.5% of them, came against Minnesota (11-5), Penn State (11-4) and Northwestern (7-6), teams that over the course of Alford's eight years have been the undeniable cellar dwellers of the conference. That means against the rest of the Big Ten, the portion of the league that had much of a pulse during the eight-year Alford era, one that, in my opinion, is one of the worst eight year runs in the Big Ten as a whole, Alford was 32-52 (.381).

Since Alford himself said Thursday on 810 WHB that he is not criticizing Iowa about not supporting him, what am I left to deduce?

I am reminded of what Greg Doyel of CBSSportsline.com said a few weeks about when he talked about Alford being rumored for the then-vacant position at New Mexico; Alford was looking to get out of town ahead of the posse. That's Greg's opinion, and I share it.

Which is all fine and good, because Alford is happier now, and the Iowa fan base is happier now. And I really, really wish Alford would quit spinning about his time at Iowa in the light of there being something wrong with the program, and trying to use such thing as excuses for why he didn't accomplish what he wanted to accomplish.

I wrote a column several days ago that talked about healing, about the Iowa fan base coming back together now that Alford is gone. I know that this column and some other things that I have said probably fly in the face of that ‘healing' sentiment.

So I'll make a deal here; I'll stop talking and writing about this stuff when it stops wafting up here to Iowa from Albuquerque, via ESPN or other news outlets…when I don't feel the urge to defend a basketball program and tradition that had been pretty darn good and proud during my lifetime, and one that is not that way now, and that isn't due to some overwhelming lack of support from the university.

I guess I view this as outsiders messing with my friends and family. And has always been the case with me, if someone is doing that, I am going to come up beside my family and friends and pitch in.

To get the latest inside slant on Iowa's coaching search, be sure to visit the HN Clubhouse forum, CLICK HERE. HawkeyeNation.com has sources that will be in Atlanta this weekend at the Final Four, sources who are college coaches and sources who will be amongst this largest gathering of college coaches that assembles each year. We will pass along what we hear in the HN Clubhouse as news becomes available.


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