UNM coach Alford in heated exchange

Updated: March 1, 2010, 7:30 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The Mountain West Conference has reprimanded New Mexico coach Steve Alford over his heated exchange of words with BYU forward Jonathan Tavernari, despite the coach's insistence it was a byproduct of a hard-fought game.

In a video posted on YouTube, Alford can be heard directing a vulgarity at Tavernari while the teams shook hands after New Mexico (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) beat BYU (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) 83-81 victory Saturday in Provo, Utah.

The Mountain West issued a statement late Monday, reprimanding Alford "for his unduly provocative language toward an opposing student athlete."

Alford attributes the incident to the emotions of the moment and says he called BYU coach Dave Rose to apologize. Alford says there was no harm done.

Alford and Tavernari can be seen in video replays arguing emphatically during the teams' postgame handshake Saturday.

Tavernari
Tavernari
Alford
Alford

"What are you going to do about it?" New Mexico assistant coach Wyking Jones asked Tavernari several times as they walked in the same direction as Alford, with players shaking hands between them.

"I'm going to tell you real clear ... You're an [expletive]," Alford then yelled at Tavernari.

Alford said he was trying to congratulate Tavernari, a senior, on an outstanding career at BYU, but that the player "didn't want to hear that at the time."

"I'm wired as a competitor sometimes to a fault, and Jonathan's a fierce competitor, and it's senior night," Alford said Monday on "ESPN First Take."

"I understand that, I've been there, I've experienced that both as a player and as a coach."

Tavernari, a reserve forward, had eight points and six rebounds in 27 minutes in the loss for BYU (26-4, 11-3).

"We got to speak afterwards," Alford said on "First Take." "And so I think it was just the heat of the moment between two pretty good competitors. But nobody has any more respect for him as a player than I do."

Minutes after the confrontation, Tavernari was escorted by BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe to wait outside New Mexico's locker room while the Lobos celebrated. He apologized to Alford, and according to the Albuquerque Journal, Alford replied: "You're still one of my favorites."

"If I could, I'd apologize to the whole team," Tavernari said.

"You don't have to," Alford replied. "You just shocked me. You're one of my favorites."

"I just lost my cool," Tavernari said.

With 52 seconds to play and the game tied at 80, tempers flared between Tavernari and New Mexico's Darington Hobson after the two players bumped at midcourt. As he was calling a timeout, Hobson extended an elbow toward Tavernari.

During the timeout, Tavernari remained visibly upset.

Officials reviewed the sequence on video but no fouls were called against either side. The coaches were summoned by officials to midcourt for a quick meeting. Coming out of the break, Hobson offered a handshake to Tavernari but the BYU player ignored it.

Alford said he had reviewed video of the game and didn't feel there was anything that warranted a reprimand by the Mountain West against himself, Hobson or New Mexico's assistants, who also jawed with Tavernari in the handshake line.

"And I definitely don't think there's anything warranted along Jonathan's way," Alford said. "I think it was just two really good teams and, like I said before, it's unfortunate that somebody has to lose in a game like that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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