UCLA basketball lands most national TV games of Steve Alford era

Television executives have officially joined the faction anticipating Steve Alford’s heralded recruiting class. The UCLA men’s basketball team will make more national television appearances this coming season than each of the previous three under Alford.

Featuring touted freshmen Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, the Bruins will appear on CBS on three occasions, Fox Sports 1 six times and the ESPN family of networks a minimum of 10 times, according to the schedule released by the UCLA athletic department on Thursday.

UCLA’s 15-17 record last season and a 6-12 conference mark that was their worst in 14 years didn’t deter the networks. The obvious reason seems to be the arrival of rivals.com’s No. 5 recruiting class in the country to a roster that has a solid nucleus after graduating just one senior, center Tony Parker. Ball and Leaf are rated the class of 2016’s fourth and 16th recruits in the country, respectively, by rivals.com, which rates UCLA freshman center Ike Anigbogu 25th. Continue reading

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UCLA AD Dan Guerrero: ‘We’re not all about a coaching carousel’

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero (center) talked on Tuesday about Steve Alford and the state of the Bruins' men's basketball program. (Brad Graverson/Staff)

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero (center) talked on Tuesday about Steve Alford and the state of the Bruins’ men’s basketball program. (Brad Graverson/Staff)

After one of the most disappointing men’s basketball seasons in recent memory, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero responded today to fans who have called for him to fire head coach Steve Alford.

“I believe that those that want a coaching change are not going to be happy no matter what I say,” he said. “I believe that others who may be disappointed in the season will understand what UCLA’s all about. We’re not all about a coaching carousel every two or three years. We’re about building a program and doing our best to build our program the right way.

“There are very few coaches around the country that, in their first two years, at any place, will go to two Sweet 16s. You would hope that we would’ve been able to build on that. And we didn’t. We had a subpar year. There’s no question about that. But that was one year.”

Read the full Q&A here.

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UCLA coach Steve Alford returns his extension after losing season

After a 15-17 record in his third season, UCLA head coach Steve Alford has "returned" the one-year extension he signed in  2014. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

After a 15-17 record in his third season, UCLA head coach Steve Alford has “returned” the one-year extension he signed in 2014. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

After one of the worst seasons in recent UCLA history, Steve Alford said in a letter to fans that he has decided to return the one-year contract extension he signed in 2014.

The news comes in the wake of a 15-17 finish by the Bruins, just the fourth losing season for the program since it hired John Wooden in 1948. A run that included a five-loss streak to end the year — including a third straight to USC — sparked palpable outrage for the UCLA faithful. Twice this week, a plane flew over campus, pulling banners that read “UCLA DESERVES BETTER! FIRE ALFORD!” and “MARCH MADNESS IS NOT FIRING ALFORD.”

In an email sent out on Sunday evening, Alford acknowledged that the result was “unacceptable,” but also recognized that the letter was unlikely to “change any opinions.”

“The fact remains that no matter how much time passes, the way we finished this past season will eat at me for a long, long time,” he wrote. “Our record speaks for itself and is simply unacceptable. There’s nothing that I can say or write that will change that fact. This happened under my watch, it begins and it ends with me. The buck stops here.

“Because of this, I let (athletic director) Dan Guerrero know that I wanted to return the one-year contract extension I received after the 2013-14 season. This request has since been processed.”

The nullification of the one-year extension, signed after Alford’s first Sweet 16 run with the Bruins in 2013-14, would mean that the coach is only attached to the program until April 2020. Perhaps more importantly, it would also adjust his buyout terms to what was stipulated in his original contract.

Under those terms, Alford’s buyout drops to $7.8 million on April 30, to $5.2 million on the same date in 2017, and to $2.6 million in 2018. If UCLA were to dismiss Alford, it would pay him in monthly installments through April 30, 2020. Those payments would be reduced if Alford were to gain other sources of income.

See the full letter below: Continue reading

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‘Fire Alford’ banner flies over UCLA

UCLA just finished 15-17 in its third season under Steve Alford, giving the Bruins a losing record for just the fourth time since 1948.

That’s left plenty of fans railing against the 51-year-old coach. On Monday morning, a plane flew over campus dragging a banner that read: “UCLA DESERVES BETTER! FIRE ALFORD!”

This is not the first outcry that Alford has seen since joining the Bruins. Almost immediately after he was hired, he enraged many in and around the university by refusing to apologize for his past handling of Pierre Pierce’s sexual assault case at Iowa. A petition calling for his firing launched late this season has collected more than 1,500 signatures.

Although Alford made two Sweet 16 runs before missing the NCAA Tournament this year, he also did so with a number of NBA-bound players he did not recruit. His hopes of a turnaround rest largely on a top-five incoming recruiting class, which includes five-star prospects Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf.

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What’s next for UCLA men’s basketball under Steve Alford?

After guiding UCLA to one of its worst seasons in recent memory, what questions are facing Steve Alford and the Bruins? (Stephen Carr/Staff)

After guiding UCLA to one of its worst seasons in recent memory, what questions are facing Steve Alford and the Bruins? (Stephen Carr/Staff)

Was it a bad season? Yes. Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. Finishing with an overall record of 15-17 would qualify as bad for most major programs, let alone the one that holds more national titles than anyone else.

There shouldn’t be much dispute about this, but Steve Alford emphasized this week that the Bruins shouldn’t be dinged for a “bad season” — only for a bad two-and-a-half months. But given that the whole season only lasts about four months, this seems like a case of splitting hairs.

Most coaches should be granted leeway for the occasional bad season. It’s the timing of this season — as as well as the way it unfolded — that should cause concern about the viability of the Alford era. Yes, he reached the Sweet 16 twice, but had the benefit of inheriting a number of future NBA players. This season featured a roster almost entirely of his own design. Despite that, this team saved its worst basketball for last, losing its last five games by an average of nearly 12 points.

Can a top recruiting class turn things around? Perhaps. The nature of modern college basketball helps facilitate quick turnarounds, with one-and-done players making the type of impact that isn’t feasible in other sports. As the season spiraled down, Alford made increasingly frequent references to his top-five group of signees. He did so with good reason: Lonzo Ball is as well regarded as any point guard prospect in recent memory, and T.J. Leaf should make the frontcourt much more offensively skilled.

But Ben Howland also brought in a loaded recruiting class before his final season, landing Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams in what was a No. 2-ranked haul. Continue reading

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