Coaching men’s college basketball at five different universities has enabled Steve Alford to criss-cross the United States on numerous occasions.
He never fails to return home.
Alford, whose long-winded lists of accomplishments includes leading Indiana University to the 1987 national championship, wrapped up his annual basketball camp at Franklin College earlier this week.
It marked the 30th anniversary of the Franklin-born Alford conducting his annual camp for girls and boys at his father, Sam’s, alma mater.
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Incoming Grades 2 to 7 are eligible. Once again, the Alford camp achieved its limit with more than 220 campers at the Spurlock Center from Monday to Thursday.
Nearly 40 more were on the waiting list.
“I think it’s been comprehensively beneficial because we obviously enjoy the benefit of having him here and having the camp just continue to grow and grow and grow,” said Kerry Prather, the Franklin College men’s basketball and athletics director.
“From Steve’s standpoint, wherever he’s been from Southwest Missouri to Iowa to New Mexico and now UCLA, it’s a chance to come back home and spend time in Indiana. Retouch a lot of bases, see friends and family. It’s just been a lot of fun.”
Alford started his camp following his senior season at IU. He carried it on through a four-year career in the NBA and even once he started his college coaching career at Manchester (Indiana) College in 1991.
About to begin his fourth season at UCLA, Alford, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1983, sat down with the Daily Journal for a Q&A:
Q: You can hold your camp anywhere in Indiana and remain successful. Why is it so important to keep it at Franklin College?
A: We started coming here because of dad’s allegiance to Franklin. He played here, I was born here, and so when we started looking for a campsite when I was still playing at Indiana, the proximity is great. Dad got to have a relationship first with Kerry, and, being his alma mater, it’s something we probably started out thinking would be a four-or five-year deal. I actually ended up taking a job at Manchester, which is a rival, and we just kept it going because we liked it here so much. Once I started coaching Division I, it ended up being a great week to come back and spend with the family. And the college has been … I don’t think it would have ever worked if the college wasn’t so incredible to us. They’ve been terrific in working and dealing with the Alford family and our camps. We’ve been very blessed because it’s been a great camp.
Q: Which aspect of your camp are you most proud?
A: We used to have a boys camp, a girls camp, and it was fourth-grade through ninth-grade. It was overnight. As I started moving throughout the country coaching the NCAA rules changed to where now prospective student-athletes, PSA’s, are now seventh-graders. You can’t have a camp if you’re 100 miles from your campus. I can only entertain first grade through incoming seventh-graders. We did this six years ago and thought the camp could potentially die because we had 20-some years of people seeing it one way. We’ve had to change and adjust to rules, and I’m probably most pleased that over 30 years we’ve been sold out 27 or 28 of those years. I’ve been out of the state 21 years, and yet almost all of those 21 years our camps have been full. We have a waiting list of nearly 40 this year. I’m most pleased that it tells me we’re doing a good job of running a good camp and that people come back. Our return rate is over 80 percent.
Q: You’re obviously much more than a face on a brochure when it comes to your camp. Why is this interaction so important to you?
A: I guess it’s my way of feeling that I give back. Being a coach’s kid, I had a lot more advantages than the typical kid. I’ve always had a ball, I’ve always had a gym. Always had a key to get in and turn lights on. And having a father in the business, he was always there to provide instruction. Other kids don’t. Other kids have to find a ball, find a court and sometimes find a dad to put the time in. I guess from my standpoint I look at all these second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, and I’m thinking, ‘I was there once.’ In a four-day camp I want to give them that experience of here’s a ball, here’s a gym, here’s a basket and here’s some instruction. And it’s cool. Bryce (Alford) was Kyle Guy’s counselor, and now Kyle’s (Indiana) Mr. Basketball going on to play for Virginia. Those are cool stories.
Q: Is it more difficult to play basketball for your father and coach your sons?
A: I think they’re different times of your life. When you’re 16 you know everything, and you’ve got your dad being hard on you to set the culture of the team and to make you better. Now I’m in my 50s and now it’s your son. All those things are different. Being a coach’s son really helped me and prepared me to become a coaching dad. I will say it’s been a blessing. Some of the absolute most special blessings I’ve had in my life are playing for my dad and coaching my kids. It doesn’t mean stress doesn’t come with either, but I would not choose to do something else.
Q: Your whole adult life has been basketball. When was the last paycheck you received that didn’t involve the sport?
A: (Laughing) Growing up I had a paper route, and then I went from paper routes to mowing yards. That enabled me to attend some camps out of state and with gas money once I got old enough to drive. That’s probably it. Past the age of 16 everything has pretty much been basketball.
Q: Beyond basketball fundamentals, what do you want girls and boys to take away from their camp experience?
A: Hopefully some life skills. Just work ethic and integrity and character. Doing the right thing even when the right thing’s not popular. Especially today. Kids are growing up in a whole different era. Not to be entitled. To work to earn things. Work not just to earn awards, but work to earn your character. Being a good friend and being a good teammate. These are all things that I hope they go away at least sensing.
Q: I’m sure you get asked about playing for coach (Bob) Knight on a daily basis. Do you ever get tired of it?
A: No, because it’s like my father. I would never tire of talking about my dad or talking about coach Knight because these are the two individuals who, from a male side and from a basketball side, had more to do with where I’m at now as a basketball player, coach, father and man than those two. I always love talking about both men. I stay in touch with coach Knight. He’s doing great, and I love and appreciate him more and more each day.
THE ALFORD FILE
Name: Steve Alford
Family: Wife, Tanya; sons, Kory, 24, and Bryce, 21; daughter, Kayla, 19
High school: New Castle (1983)
College: Indiana University (1987)
NBA Draft status: Selected 26th overall in the 1987 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks
NBA totals: Four seasons (1987-91), 744 points and 176 assists
Coaching record: 527-272 (.660); includes four seasons at Manchester University, four at Southwest Missouri State, eight at the University of Iowa, six at the University of New Mexico and the past three at UCLA.