UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero’s opening statement:
Tremendously exciting day for me and the entire UCLA family as we are proud to announce the hiring of Steve Alford as the new men’s basketball coach. Since last Sunday, obviously, the last six days have been pretty crazy, quite a whirlwind. There was a great deal of interest from many circles for this job. During the past several days, I received a lot of input from individuals both inside and out of basketball. Around the game of basketball as well. These individuals have provided great input, great insight, and certainly helped contribute to where we are today.
I think what resonated most about these conversations is how much alignment of vision there was between me and many others in terms of the characteristics that were important in the next coach. In Steve Alford, we found exactly what we were seeking. An outstanding coach, a great competitor, an excellent teacher of the game, builder of programs, someone who cares deeply about his players and his family. An individual that values academics, that has established a habit of winning in his respective programs. Maybe more importantly, an individual who really wanted to accept the challenge of being the head coach at the UCLA.
I can’t tell you again how thrilled again I am to have Steve and his family join us. I believe he will build this program the right way.
Q: When did you know he became available considering he had just agreed to a contract extension at New Mexico?
We made the outreach to Steve. I think when you talk to Steve, he’s going to tell you he was just very pleased with his situation in New Mexico. … When we made the contact and began the discussion, we both realized that something could be possible. We actually consummated the deal late last night, early this morning.
Q: What are the contract terms?
It’s a seven-year deal, $18.2 million. $2.6 million a year. It has a $200,000 signing bonus. Obviously, there’s a bonus pool that’s included in that.
Q: How will you handle his buyout with New Mexico?
Generally speaking, it’s the coach himself that has that responsibility, but we’ll work out the details if necessary.
Q: How did his Big Ten experience with Iowa weigh in?
The fact that he has been on a big stage both in the Big Ten conference and in the Mountain West conference really helped as we decided who was ready for this position. If you think about the last several years, the Mountain West has arguably been one of the best conferences in the country. … He obviously did well. He’s had three championships, three Coach of the Years in the last few years. Just won back-to-back championships in the past two years. … I believe the Big Ten experience really laid a foundation.
Q: Is Alford ready to handle the expectations of UCLA?
If there was anyone better suited for this job from an expectations standpoint or a pressure standpoint, it’s Steve. Remember, he grew up as one of the most recognizable and iconic players in the state of Indiana, where of course, basketball is king. He’s the son of a terrific coach. He grew up dealing with pressure from external sources at a very young age. He goes to Indiana, plays for one of the legends of the game (Bob Knight), wins a national championship. Plays on the Olympic team. Anything about Indiana basketball is pressure in so many ways.
The state of New Mexico, and the University of New Mexico, they take their basketball very seriously. I think the most important thing about that question, is that he’s not the kind of guy who will shy away from what UCLA basketball is all about. He’ll handle the expectations with dignity, with understanding, with class, and because that’s the kind of person that he is. I think he’s ready for this stage, without question.
Q: Was there an effort not to let this process drag out?
It wasn’t that we were trying to make the decision quickly. We wanted to make the right decision more than anything else. The opportunity created itself. If he had still been in the tournament, this thing could have been drawn out. The fact that he was available, the fact that we were able to make the contact, that we were able to garner mutual interest, that allowed us to have a serious discussion and to get to the point.
We’ve been cranking from the very beginning. When Monday hit after the announcement (of Ben Howland’s firing), we were moving forward. You spend that day talking to coaches, talking to players, and you talk to parents and you talk to recruits and all those kinds of things, which are things that are necessary to do as you get ready to move forward. The fact that we were really able to get it done in short order was really a byproduct of the circumstances that we were dealt with.
Q: How important is recruiting Los Angeles, and how much of a consideration was it in the hire?
The answer to that question is it’s critically important. I believe we lost the connection to the L.A. market in a way that should not have happened. This is a way to get it back. Steve was recognized as a first-class individual, just a personable guy whose players loved playing for him. First order of business, obviously, is to make inroads in the city. There’s a lot of great players in the city of Los Angeles. We obviously want to keep as many of them at home as possible.
Q: How many of the people you sought input from were ex-UCLA players?
A lot of them. I really appreciate that they took the time and the effort to reach out. These are individuals that love the experience that they had at UCLA, love the university, want what’s best for the university. They contacted me via phone, met with a couple of them. It was a great opportunity to engage and to share our collective thoughts relative to how we can move forward.
Q: How much input will you have on the coaching staff?
The input that I have is to give him a coaches pool so he can go out and bring the coaches that are necessary. It will be his call in terms of who he actually has on his staff. We’re talking that through as soon as he gets on campus. I will ask him to talk to the individuals that we have on staff now. Some of them are obviously looking for other positions. Some of them are not sure whether they can be retained. It’s typical that the coach will at least talk to them and find out what they’re all about.
Q: Will there be a chance for UCLA to use charter flights to all away games like other top programs?
There’s a lot of discussion about that. The answer is sure, of course it’s possible at some point in time. We have the benefit of being in Los Angeles. We certainly have an airport that flies virtually every place with multiple opportunities and a number of flights. There are going to be occasions, especially with the Pac-12 deal, where that will be reviewed and we’ll do what’s necessary.
Q: Was there thought of waiting until after the NCAA tournament to go after candidates still participating?
We kind of knew where we were focused. Once you have a certain candidate in mind, if you have an opportunity to engage, and there’s reciprocity in terms of the interest, then you just keep going down that path until you see something happen.
There’s sometimes a misconception about how this thing works. An overture to a coach doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been turned down. These individuals sometimes have no interest in going to another place. The first thing you need to do is to gauge whether there’s a possibility there. Once we knew Steve was interested, that obviously allowed us to continue moving forward.
Q: Is there concern that he wasn’t reached a Sweet Sixteen in 14 years?
I wanted to find the coach who can build a program the right way. More than anything, we need UCLA to sustain success. Sustained success means we establish a great foundation, that we bring in the right kind of kinds, that we enjoy the kind of success that we all want, and that we continue to do that year after year. It’s harder and harder for us at UCLA, in many ways. Obviously, there are a number of kids that will come in and decide to leave. We’ve had our issues with transfers as of late. I’m hoping that Steve can come in, bring in quality players, and hopefully allow them to grow and develop so that they can have a program, that year in and year out, can compete at a high level. We all want to win championships. That’s always our goal. I think Steve gives us a good chance to get us back on track to get there. …
I’ve known Steve and his capabilities for a long time. I’ve certainly watched his teams play when I was a member of the NCAA committee. I had an opportunity to watch a lot of his games. I enjoy his style. I think the players will enjoy his style. He’s the right guy for us.
Q: What do you see from him that indicates he’ll be able to mingle with boosters and help fundraise?
He’s a very personable guy. When you sit down and talk to him, he’s engaging. Obviously, he’s very active in his community in New Mexico. He’s done a lot of charity work there. He and his family. He has a wonderful family. I think the UCLA family will embrace him. I think he’ll be able to hit on all cylinders. He’ll be an excellent recruiter, appealing to recruits. He’ll be able to energize the fanbase in so many ways. Look at New Mexico. They get 15,000 people a game. It’s madness there. They have a great following there. I believe he’ll be able to energize our fanbase as well. And I believe he’ll be able to connect to all of our donors and our boosters and alums and individuals on campus and around basketball.
Q: When did the two of you have a face-to-face meeting?
I’m not going to get into forensic details of that stuff. I don’t want to get into the process. I’m just glad it’s over. We signed a deal, actually a term sheet this morning. Still needs to be worked on and cleaned up. Really, it was today when we put it all together.
Q: Was there a search firm involved?
There was not.