UCLA head coach Steve Alford talked Thursday about the Bruins’ NCAA Tournament first round game against Kent State, the Pac-12’s potential in the tournament and his thoughts on the Indiana opening.
The Hoosiers are in need of a new coach after Tom Crean was fired earlier today, creating an opening at the UCLA head coach’s alma mater. Alford’s stock is peaking after a 29-4 season at the most high profile program in a coaching career with stops at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico before UCLA. Perhaps the only job he’d leave for is Indiana, where he was the leading scorer on the 1978 national champions.
“Obviously, that was 30 years ago,” Alford said. “I was a part of that. I stood on a stage with a great group of guys and won a national championship. It’s my home state. I played there. So obviously all that comes up, but I love UCLA. I love Los Angeles. You’re talking about arguably the greatest brand anywhere on that planet and we got things going at a very high level right now.”
Alford’s large buyout complicates things for both sides, but there is certainly a chance there will be a strong desire on each end to cut through that and make a deal.
There are plenty of reasons why the timing could be perfect for Alford to justify leaving UCLA after four seasons. His son Bryce is a senior. Lonzo Ball is sure to leave for the NBA and leading scorer TJ Leaf is a good bet to declare for the draft after one season too. Even less heralded freshman Ike Anigbogu might leave for the NBA considering his rising stock. Junior 7-foot center Thomas Welsh’s departure isn’t out of the question either. In other words, it’s possible that the entire UCLA starting lineup is on its way out.
There are also plenty of reasons to stay, five to be exact. Continue reading “Steve Alford to Indiana is a very real possibility” »
His first two seasons, the coach’s son was under constant scrutiny to prove his father didn’t unjustly gift him a UCLA uniform. Last season he was burdened with something even more stressful, trying to save Steve Alford’s job.
This season, Alford is finally playing the role he was meant for. He’s not a point guard. There are plenty of nights when he doesn’t even have to be a primary scorer. He has better defensive players around him to offset his deficiencies on that end of the floor. He’s mainly just a shooter…and the team’s vocal leader.
Alford finally seems secure enough in himself – and he has accepted that he can’t single-handedly save his father’s job – to play a reduced role. The thing he spoke most passionately about was how he perceives criticism of himself, which is detailed in this feature story I wrote about him. The turning point came during UCLA’s trip to the Sweet 16 in the 2015 NCAA tournament his sophomore year.
“The same voices that were bashing me my freshman year for playing over Zach (LaVine) or whatever it may be were the same voices that were praising me after I had a good game against SMU,” Alford said. “So I kind of saw it first hand, the same exact people that are going to bash you when you’re not doing well are going to praise you when you are doing well. That’s when I really started to realize the voices that I needed to listen to and not to pay attention to anything else.” Continue reading “UCLA’s Bryce Alford can’t forget his treatment during bad times” »
It wasn’t just that No. 14 UCLA beat SEC and Big Ten teams over the weekend, it was how those wins were achieved that should inspire some more confidence.
For the first time in this young season, UCLA found itself in not one, but two tight games. It won both, claiming the tournament title at the Wooden Legacy in the process.
In Friday’s semifinal it staved off a pesky Nebraska team that nearly erased UCLA’s 15-point second-half lead. Then it withstood four lead changes and two tie scores in the final five minutes of Sunday’s win over Texas A&M in the tournament title game.
It’s not like they’re toppling the best teams in the country (Wait for it…UCLA plays at No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday!) but these are major conference opponents that pushed the Bruins to provide answers to some significant questions. Most notably, could freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf answer the bell in close games? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Continue reading “UCLA basketball beefs up resume with major conference wins” »
It’s not an exaggeration to say Steve Alford helped himself more than any college basketball coach in the country with the one significant opportunity provided to him since the debacle that was last season.
For the coach with 4/9 odds to return to his team next season, Alford just gave Dan Guerrero five good reasons not to let him go, chief among them 6-foot-8 Indianapolis guard Kris Wilkes, who Alford gushes about in the video above. It’s not uncommon for incoming players to be released from their letters of intent should the coach that signed them be fired. UCLA brought in a pair of five-star players, two four-star players and the lone three-star recruit is the first of Lonzo Ball’s two brothers bound for UCLA.
The 2016 class isn’t looking too shabby either. A school-record 18 3-pointers in the season-opener was followed by an impressive second-half performance for opposite reasons in a 102-87 win on Sunday. But any expectations should be severely tempered given that the opponents thus far have been Pacific and CSUN.