Alford, who was a Hoosier from 1983 to '87, also learned some things from Knight he hasn't used—at least not yet. After Southwest Missouri was hammered 85-67 on its home court by Southwestern Louisiana in the second game of the season, Alford wanted to take his team right back on the practice floor—one of Knight's favorite torture tactics. Alford had his players in their practice gear, ready to go, but then life in the '90s got in the way. His assistants pointed out that if the team practiced, he would have to cancel a regular practice later to stay under the NCAA's 20-hour-a-week limit.
Threats of torture aside, the Bears seem to enjoy playing for the Alfords. The team's top scorer is 6'4" sophomore guard Ben Kandlbinder, an excellent shooter who lacks quickness. When Kandlbinder was held scoreless in a game early in the season, Alford called him in and gave him a video. "This will show you a player who was pretty good at cutting, screening and moving without the ball," said the coach. The tape was of Alford, circa 1987, leading Indiana to the national title. Two games later Kandlbinder scored 36 points.
"It wasn't that long ago that he played," says Kandlbinder, "so you have to respect what he says."
It wasn't that long ago—December 1991—that Alford was home in New Castle, Ind., working as a volunteer assistant to his father at New Castle High. He had just been cut by the Sacramento Kings after a four-year NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors. Then came a surprise offer to coach Manchester College, a Division III school in Indiana whose coach had quit in the midst of his team's 0-8 start. Alford took the job, went 4-16 the rest of the season and then went 20-8, 23-4 and, last year, 31-1, the only loss coming to Wisconsin- Platteville in the Division III title game. When Southwest Missouri State athletic director Bill Rowe brought Steve to Springfield for an interview last March and offered him the job the same day, he got two Alfords instead of one.
Clearly the Alfords are doing something right on the court. The Bears bounced back from the Illinois State loss with a 61-58 road win over conference favorite Bradley last Saturday night. That victory improved their record to 8-5 overall and 4-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Not bad, considering that the Bears were picked to tie for eighth in the league in the preseason.
And the prospects for next season are bright. Alford has signed four players already—all from Indiana. One is Kevin Ault, a Mr. Basketball candidate who is averaging 31.6 points a game for Warsaw High. It doesn't hurt that Sam was a high school coach in Indiana for 29 years and knows virtually everybody in the state.
Still, there is one thing troubling the younger Alford about coaching with his father. "The man can't dress," Steve moans. "Before every game I have to pick his tie and then tie it for him."
"Once upon a time he couldn't do anything without me," says Sam. "Now I need a little help with a tie, and all I hear is complaining."
The blizzard of '96, which paralyzed the East Coast beginning on the morning of Jan. 7, wreaked havoc with last week's schedule. Dozens of games had to be postponed; others were played in front of nearly empty stands. One ACC game, between Maryland and Florida State, was postponed on Jan. 9 because the Seminoles couldn't get to College Park, Md. Both teams' coaches would have played on Jan. 10, but Raycom, which pays the ACC millions a year for TV rights, nixed that idea because it was televising two other ACC games that night. "Now it screws us up no matter when we play," says Maryland coach Gary Williams.