Let’s get right to the unpleasant video:
Saturday, Steve Alford may have had the biggest win as a coach since one of his two victories at Iowa in Big Ten tournament title games. His 10th-ranked New Mexico Lobos beat No. 13 BYU 83-81 before 22,644 fans in Salt Lake City to clinch a share of the Mountain West Conference title, with an outright championship likely to come this week.
The game was on Versus. I watched some of the second half. It was called the biggest regular-season game in Mountain West history. It was intense, to say the least. How intense? Alford used a naughty word to BYU player Jonathan Tavarnari and to Cougar fans.
From this blog post by Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune:
What did New Mexico coach Steve Alford say to BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari in the postgame handshake line today to make the Cougar senior so irate?
And what did Tavernari say back to Alford that prompted the coach to call Tavernari an “A—hole,” along with other not-so-kind sentiments? . . .
Also, according to several people who have sent emails tonight, Alford called some BYU fans the same derogatory name he called Tavernari as he walked off the court and into the Lobos’ locker room. . . .
Tavernari sought out Alford about 15 minutes later and apologized. I did not hear Alford apologize back, nor did any of my colleagues who witnessed the exchange.
Alford told reporters that he was initially trying to congratulate Tavernari on a fine career at BYU in the handshake line. Obviously, there’s much more to the story than that.
Jim Rayburn of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City offers these thoughts from this blog entry:
On Monday, or soon after, I expect the Mountain West Conference to reprimand New Mexico coach Steve Alford for his cursing of BYU’s Jonathan Tavernari in the post-game hand-shake line. If not, the conference should. And Alford, hopefully, will issue some type of a public apology to the conference, BYU, JT, and Lobo fans as well.
While not condoning how Tavernari handled himself in the final minutes or after the game when Alford tried to compliment JT on a great career, Alford is the coach of a high-ranked Division I team. He must show more restraint and should walk away from a confrontation like this and not throw fuel on the fire by calling JT an “a . . hole” right in front of cameras and players and coaches from both teams. Some allege that Alford made similar remarks to BYU fans as he left the floor.
Regardless of whether Darrington Hobson threw an flagrant elbow at JT right before a time-out in the final minute (I have not seen any video of the incident, so I don’t know if he did or did not), Tavernari should have left it aside when going through the post-game congratulatory line. He did not, and that angered Alford and a Lobos assistant coach, and both reacted. But everyone knows JT is on the verge of eruption a lot of the time. He’s a firecracker. And he’s also a young man who is still learning and growing. I’m sure that he now regrets his postgame anger, behavior and frustration. It took away from his great game, and he did play great. BYU officials handled it correctly, and quickly, when AD Tom Holmoe escorted JT down to New Mexico’s locker room shortly after the game to apologize.
But even though Tavernari is 22 years old and should know better after four years of college experience, Alford and any coach in his position has to be the adult in these situations and act like one, and bring calm and order. Alford did not. And now he should acknowledge that, and so should the conference.
That’s just some juicy stuff for you folks. We’ve seen a lot of heated postgame moments after heated games, and human beings are a little “emotional” in those moments.
But what this does illustrate is Alford was in a big game. His team is 27-3. His conference record at UNM is 36-11, quite the upgrade from his 61-67 mark in eight years at Iowa. Would it be a surprise if his name turns up when bigger jobs open after the season, as they always do?
Right now, some of you are probably typing your “Who cares?” and “Alford’s in the past, we don’t want to read about him anymore” replies. I don’t blame you.
But can you deny this is fascinating? Alford leaves here with probably at least 93 percent of Hawkdom not the least bit sorry to see him go after years of controversies and a void of NCAA tournament success, he flees to a distant spot to lick his wounds, and Iowa’s glories start anew.
Except things have gone from bad to horrid with Hawkeye basketball, while Alford is a much-sought guest on national radio sports shows and will again be a part of March Madness in a few weeks.
I’m headed to Iowa City (I think) in a few hours for the Indiana-Iowa game. Oh, how many Indiana-Iowa games were highly anticipated in the past. Rare were the times in the 1980s and 1990s and even part of the 2000s when both teams weren’t good.
Today? As Hayden Fry once said, the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s rump every day.
Thanks to the good folks at The March to Madness for passing on some of the links seen here.