Steve Alford brings a lot to the table as UCLA’s new head basketball coach—but what does he have that previous coach Ben Howland didn’t?
To start, Alford should be able to better implement a half-court offense. For the longest time, UCLA’s “slow it down” game was shaky at best and consisted of a single player and his commitment to score. Last year that was 19… Erm… 20-year-old Shabazz Muhammad, and his production was below expectations.
Flashback to the 2012-13 season and you might recall that a timeout was ultimately a turnover. Why? Because without a half-court offense coming out of a break, the Bruins had nowhere to go, and few options to choose from.
Alford should be able to change this major issue along with a lot more. His team at New Mexico had the upbeat tempo everyone has come to love but they could also take it easy, milk the clock, and get a good shot off in crunch time. Alford brings this dynamic, which could become even bigger with the a recruiting destination like UCLA enabling him to snag marquee players out of high school.
From a defensive standpoint, not much changes. Alford and Howland both play man defense, but it will be a matter of style that makes the slight difference Hopefully, for the sake of the program, Alford can use a teaching-based system to connect with players—not just tell them what they need to do. Most importantly, though, Alford can bond with the players, taking on the role of a mentor rather than that of a boss.
Alford’s personality should build on the momentum-style basketball played in Pauley Pavilion. Down-to-the-wire games should include the educated play of Kyle “Slow-Mo” Anderson running the point. If the Bruins are in need of an energy boost, it’ll be the athleticism of Norman Powell, who reminds me of a raw Russell Westbrook. Powell can take control of a game with his huge arsenal of shots, his lock down defense and his emphatic slam dunks. And for luckily for him, staying a Bruin is looking like it will pay off.
Nonetheless, my difference maker this season is no one mentioned above. I think the fate of Alford’s first season falls namely in the hands of Tony Parker. Can Parker evolve into the dominant center that nobody wants to challenge? Can Alford’s system help Parker shed his high school shell and evolve into an All-Pac-12 player? All this and more will be answered later in the year, but I expect nothing less than success from the boys in blue this season.