I've been a harsh critic of Steve Alford's coaching since his Manchester days.
But I'm watching New Mexico during this year's tournament because it appears to me that he's finally on the verge of becoming a good coach on his own merits.
Obviously, the scam he pulled at Manchester (dropping home-and-home's with Taylor and other Indiana small-college basketball powers from the schedule to boost his record) carried him a long way until he was exposed at Iowa (where its a bit harder to drop the home-and-home's with the conference powerhouses, the Big Ten sets that portion of the schedule.)
(Aside, Taylor had an NAIA Final four team at the time led by a guy with the great basketball name of Dale Miller -yes, really. Dale was 6'3" PF with post moves that would make McHale jealous and obviously no size at all. Had he gone D-I, he would have been making the same PF-to-PG transition that Damon Bailey was also making at that time. Difference was, of course, that Damon has the skillset to play point, wing or post. Dale Miller was 100% a post player.)
Maybe I'm still bitter than Alford only came to Odle Gymnasium once during his tenure at Manchester, but to have a D-III Final four team and NAIA Final four team less fifty-five miles apart, and to have played a home-and-home every season for thirty-plus years prior to Steve's decision to drop us (and it was picked back up as soon as he left) was just cheap.
But I wonder if New Mexico might be the best thing to happen to Steve. Obviously, he had no coaching experience whatsoever, he went straight from the NBA (although I think he was on the injured list) to small college head coach.
And finally at Iowa, it was exposed.
Out in New Mexico, he's away from the bright spotlight of the Big Ten and he can just coach and recruit. And it seems to be working. A few more years of good development and progress, and maybe he'll really be ready for the Big Ten. He's 45 now, so he's not the same inexperienced, overwhelmed guy that showed up in Iowa.
Over the next three or four seasons, we'll get to see if he's finally as good a coach as people wish him to be. And we'll also get to see if Crean is really this bad at x's and o's (my Marquette colleagues say yes, "great recruiter but not a very good game coach").