Is Steve Alford the anti-Bob Knight?

For some more insight into the life of UCLA head coach Steve Alford, try this Los Angeles Times profile from 1997. Alford, then 32, was coaching Southwest Missouri State and two years away from his lone Sweet Sixteen appearance.

There’s all sorts of anecdotes in the piece, from Alford practicing his shot by tossing Ping-Pong balls into Pringles cans, to him making 218 straight free throws when challenged by a player to beat 23. Most interesting might be his relationship with former coach and mentor Bob Knight, with whom he won an Olympic gold medal in 1984 and an NCAA championship in 1987.

Alford got Knight, a man who thinks “hope” is the worst word in the English language, to tell him this: “I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. You stand for everything this program is about. I don’t think I could care about you more than I do if you were my own son.”

But Indiana’s former “Mr. Basketball” doesn’t seem to take after Knight in his coaching style. From the Times:

“I can’t be,” Alford says. “It’s not my personality. It doesn’t make him right or wrong. I would love, down the road, to say I’m a coach who can get the most out of somebody, because that’s what they say about Coach Knight.”

Alford disdains profanity and has yet to heave a chair across a court. After his Bears had lost two consecutive games this season, Alford went easy on them in practice.

“It doesn’t do any good to rip into them,” he says. “There has to be a lighter side.”

Alford has three players from Indiana in his starting lineup. Two say they chose Southwest Missouri because they saw Alford as the anti-Knight.

It’s hard to say for sure whether or not Alford will succeed in Westwood — I’m guessing he will, even if not immediately — but at least his reputation as a player’s coach is deeply rooted.

  • Ringtail Badger

    I’d say your premise of Alford being the anti-Bob Knight is totally backed up by Alford’s record of NCAA tourney failure.

  • Go Bruinz

    “Alford disdains profanity,” except for when he was yelling at BYU’s Tavernari a few years ago as you mentioned in a previous article…

    • Jack Wang

      Presumably when he called up the DA in Iowa too. Maybe he got more Knight-like over the 2000s.

  • Mark

    For goodness sakes, Jack, go do your own profile. Is reposting others’ work what modern-day “journalism” has turned in to? This article is 16 years old. There’s nothing relevant in it.

    Sure, Alford has a little Knight in him, the good and the bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I really don’t get the logic of titling a teensy blog post as “the anti-Knight” when that is such a weighty topic. If you want to comment on that, go research Alford’s true personality, talk to people that know both men, and come to us with something fresh. Who knows, maybe Alford has become Knight 2.0 as he aged, or maybe he’s diligently trying to avoid being like Knight, or maybe he hasn’t even thought about.

    Finally, if you want to know more about Alford and Knight, Alford wrote a book called “Playing for Knight.” There’s also John Feinstein’s “A Season on the Brink,” which chronicles Alford’s junior year at Indiana. Start there at least. Yes, those books are significantly longer than tweets, but there is lots be learned.

  • QTran

    The more I read about Alford the more I comfortable I feel about the future of our program. Go Bruins!

  • Joe Blow

    Wow, Vitale AND Cowherd don’t put us in the Top 10 for a BB HC job!