University of New Mexico basketball coach and Hoosier legend Steve Alford was busy on the phone a few weeks ago when a woman started tapping on the outside window of his campus office.
Indiana. What in the world was she doing in Albuquerque?
“I was trying to tell him through the window that I had a bunch of Hoosiers in a tour bus out in the parking lot,” says Jacci, the wife of longtime Bethel College coach Mike Lightfoot. “He gave me a gesture that he would come out.”
Jacci is a tour manager for Edgerton’s Travel Service and she was taking about 30 travelers around New Mexico, including time at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Along with her as the tour host was Charlie Adams, the former WSBT-TV sports anchor.
“Plus we had a whole lot of Steve Alford fans on the motor coach,” Jacci says.
One of them happened to be Kathy, the local bus driver. When she drove the Indiana folks through the New Mexico campus, she spied Alford’s little red sports car in the parking lot and so she knew that he was in the office.
So they stopped and Jacci peeked into windows of the athletic offices until she spotted Alford. “I did feel a little silly,” she admits.
After about five minutes of waiting, she decided that Alford was going to be too busy to come out. “I went back to his window and was going to wave good-bye. He was still on the phone but he signaled me that he still wanted to come out. And while I walked back toward the motor coach, one of his assistants came out and told us to hang on.”
A minute later, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball … the star of Indiana’s 1987 national championship team … the 19-year-old Olympic gold medalist in 1984 … and the man with the perfect hair met Jacci outside the bus and gave her a hug.
Their relationship goes back to 1993. That’s when Alford’s Manchester College team, then ranked No. 1 in Division III, and Mike Lightfoot’s Bethel Pilots, the National Christian College Athletic Association’s champions that season, battled in a double overtime game before Manchester finally prevailed.
They have remained friends and often sit together at camps and Final Four tournaments. Alford went on to coach at Southwest Missouri State and then Iowa before taking the job at New Mexico. Lightfoot has continued to work wonders at his alma mater Bethel although he has had plenty of chances to go elsewhere.
“When Steve was at Iowa, we had some good talks and it seemed there were times he would have preferred to still be at a place like Manchester,” Mike says. “But it appears to be such a good fit for him now at New Mexico.
“It’s been very gratifying over the years to have built a relationship with Steve,” Mike adds.
But enough about Mike, the NAIA Hall of Fame coach. Let’s get back to his window-peeping wife Jacci and her dealings with Steve Alford earlier this fall.
“I was a rock star when I brought him onto the bus,” Jacci says. “And he was so nice and welcomed all our group to New Mexico. And, of course, a lot of the ladies on the trip said, ‘He’s not bad on the eyes.’”
Jacci would agree. Does this bother her husband just a tad?
“No,” Mike laughs. “But then again, if Steve was still playing for the Hoosiers and wearing those short shorts they used to wear, I might be a little worried.”
Bill Moor writes a weekly column for Community. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
MOOR OR LESS
A visit with a former Mr. Indiana Basketball
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