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CBN.com He’s best known for his all-American senior season at Indiana University in 1987 -- the last time the Hoosiers won a national title. Steve Alford now patrols the sidelines as head coach at the University of Iowa.
Steve was raised in a basketball family. His dad Sam was the local high school coach. But as important as the game was to the Alford family, Steve’s parents knew the value of raising their son in a Christian home.
He recalls, “I really have a good appreciation that mom and dad said, ‘If you want to play basketball, that’s tremendous! But the most important thing is who’s directing your life, who’s leading your life and who’s gonna be coach in your life.’”
So his junior year in high school, Steve gave his life to Christ. “I was just led,” he explains. “It was one of those moments when you feel something inside you talking to you. I was led to come forward.”
Steve says God opened doors he never imagined. In 1984 he won Olympic gold as a member of the U.S. Men’s team. In 1987 he reached the mountaintop of college basketball -- culminated by realizing his dream of playing in the NBA. But after four years in the league, he decided coaching was his true love.
“It was a path that was opened up for me. I went that path, not because of my understanding. I was following the Lord’s command and it worked beautifully.”
He spent four years coaching division 3, Manchester College and three years at Missouri State, where he led his team to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Steve’s career reached the next level when he accepted the coaching position here at the University of Iowa. Eight years later he’s the most successful coach in the program’s history.
“Success to me is understanding who the coach is in my life,” Steve shares. “That really means a lot. I’ve had some great coaches. My father won over 400 games, a whole lot of championships. Coach [Bobby] Knight -- easily the best college coach of all-time. Just eclipsed Dean Smith’s win record. With all that, the greatest coaches I’ve ever played for, I’ve gotta know that Jesus Christ is the coach that I play for and work for. As long as I keep that mindset, I think I’ve got a chance to be pretty successful in what I’m doing.”
Steve says coaching is his career, but his calling is his commitment to God and to his family.
“I’m a Christian first. I’m a family guy second. As much as I like coaching, as much as I like basketball, it’s third, fourth, or fifth down the line. My children see me being coach enough. I gotta make sure they see me being dad. It’s my job as a father to instill those values in my children.”
Steve’s leadership doesn’t stop with raising his children. He feels a responsibility to his team to show a Christian example.
“During the course of the year, I become like a father figure to these young men, and they’re at a very formidable time in their life,” Steve says. “They’re 18 to 22. They’re getting the most freedoms they’ve had in their entire life. They’re getting away from home. So the foundations the disciplines and the fundamentals they get in this locker room I think are paramount to the decisions they’ll ultimately make in life.”
There’s a sign in Steve’s locker room that reads: “Victory favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes.” It means a lot to Steve.
“That was a sign I took from Indiana,” he says. “It was in our locker room with Coach Knight, and it was all about the fundamentals that you’re going to make mistakes. Spiritually it’s the same way. Christian, non-Christian, we’re going to miss the mark. We’re going to make mistakes. How you handle those mistakes and get more fundamentally sound spiritually in dealing with those mistakes I think have a direct impact -- not only on your spiritual life, but those around you."
This year Iowa is on the outside looking in at an NCAA tournament birth. But Steve says he’s not worried about the future. “It’s all about persevering. You know you’re going to be tested. If you keep your eyes fixed on Christ, He’s going to reward you. I have no idea what the future holds. I know I can just kinda tackle today. As long as I’m doing those things in His will, the future will take care of itself.”
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