UCLA did its best to give new coach Steve Alford a warm welcome, rolling out a grand stage for him on the Pauley Pavilion floor Tuesday at noon. Here’s the full scene from the day as well as a photo gallery featuring Shaquille O’Neal, but these are the main highlights.
— Speaking in front of the media in-person for the first time, Alford mostly re-hashed the bits of his history he touched on earlier this week. He talked again about John Wooden, about playing for high-school crowds of 10,000, about his 1984 Olympic experience — adding that it was fun to start in the same backcourt as Michael Jordan.
He also talked about his lack of patience, saying somewhat oddly, “I’d just as soon you give me a two-foot putt than make me putt it.”
Also, some more on Wooden: “All you’ve got to do is walk around this campus and you see Coach Wooden’s mark on everything. I think that’s what made him so special and that’s probably what I — I did know as a youngster, but as I grew and got into the profession, I saw how his handprint wasn’t just on winning basketball games. When you walk across campus, it’s in the academic world. It’s in being friendly and being nice to people. You just see his touch on everything. It was pretty amazing walking across this floor this morning and seeing his gold seat over there.”
— If you’re worried about transfers out, freshman Tony Parker appears to be the only one you need to keep an eye on. The center was still at home in Georgia for an extended break, but will return to school this week. Norman Powell said he is staying, but admitted that he had considering transferring to San Diego State — especially if Ben Howland hadn’t been fired. He expressed excitement for the future, and said one of his assistant coaches in high school played for Alford at Iowa.
Players were scheduled for an afternoon meeting with Alford, and generally expressed optimism about playing for him.
Shabazz Muhammad was also absent from the festivities, but he is NBA-bound. Just waiting for the inevitable announcement on that at this point.
— Jordan Adams has upgraded from wheelchair to scooter, one which has a knee rest to keep pressure off his broken right foot. He said he’s six weeks away from getting his cast removed. He also isn’t allowed to drive right now since that would put pressure on the foot, but he doesn’t have a car here anyway.
— By now, you’ve almost certainly heard about Alford’s defense of Pierre Pierce back in 2002, touched on in an earlier blog post. (CBS Sports’ Dan Bernstein had some particularly livid words for Alford.)
Questioned about the incident again on Tuesday, Alford said: “All I can tell you with that situation is I followed everything that the University of Iowa, the administration, the lawyers that were hired, I did everything that I was supposed to do at the University of Iowa in that situation.”
Athletic director Dan Guerrero said that history was vetted during the hiring process, but declined to go into any detail about what Alford had to say about the episode.
“We feel, where we are now in the situation — it happened 11 years ago,” Guerrero said. “He gets a clean slate here. We move forward and go from there.”