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Alford gets raise along with extension

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico coach Steve Alford said he had opportunities to leave this spring after the most successful season in school history.

Forget it. He wants to be a Lobo.

"My agent got several calls," Alford said Tuesday at a news conference. "But if you talked to my agent, he'd tell you that I told him not to return any calls."

Alford agreed to terms on a contract extension in April but because of schedule conflicts wasn't able to sign the deal until this month. It runs through 2020 and will boost his total compensation to $1,149,200 over the next year, an increase of $145,000.

He could also earn an additional $625,000 next season by meeting performance incentives.

"I want to be a Lobo as long as you'll have me as a Lobo," he said.

There is one new element to this contract -- a buyout clause, something Alford said he's never had in 20 years of college coaching. He must pay $400,000 if he leaves before March 31, 2011, and the figure decreases as the years advance through 2013.

"I've never had one and I hope it shows my commitment to the university," he said.

In three seasons under Alford, the Lobos shared one Mountain West title and won last season's championship outright. They went 30-5 to set a school record for wins and returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years, losing in the second round to Washington.

Alford, who has a 76-26 record at New Mexico, has been Mountain West coach of the year the past two years. Last season, the Lobos spent 12 weeks in the Top 25 and were No. 8 in the season's final poll, the second-highest ranking in school history.

Athletic director Paul Krebs said the results have more than validated New Mexico's effort to lure Alford from Iowa after the 2006-07 season. Krebs said team grade-point averages are up, along with revenues from ticket sales, and he predicts even better days ahead.

"In the history of the university, we've flirted with greatness. We've been on the edge," Krebs said. "With consistent leadership at the top, we've got a realistic chance and we expect to join an elite fraternity, to be one of the top programs annually in college basketball."

Alford recalled "a lot of wait-and-see attitude" from fans and others after he arrived. He said he adopted the same approach when Krebs and New Mexico president David Schmidly laid out their vision for supporting the basketball program.

But Alford said administrators have delivered on everything promised. As one example, he cited a $60 million renovation at The Pit, which will be completed in time for next season.

"There are certain things that have to be in place, and those things have to be in place at the top. If the president and A.D. and the staffs below both aren't on the same page, it doesn't work. ... I found that here. I'd be crazy to walk away from it," he said.

He also said his family is "extremely happy" in Albuquerque and everything he'd heard about New Mexico's wildly passionate fans has been confirmed.

"You don't have to sell the fan base," Alford said. "You just have to put out a product that competes, works awfully hard and plays unselfish. I think we've done that in three years. We've put out a product of young men who really have a sense of pride and understanding about wearing a Lobo uniform."