UCLA basketball head coach Steve Alford cannot catch a break. After getting the head gig in Westwood a year ago to mild fanfare, he still seems to be a polarizing figure to Bruin fans. He was able to have some success this past season, which gave him some space to work with and the tiniest belief that he might actually be the man for the job, but as UCLA fans know, this job is never finished.
After the season was over, he was slowly finding out that he would not have a team close to what he had last season as he was losing five players (and possibly a sixth). His job requirements will now have him putting in overtime if he looks to continue to be successful in year two of his contract, which got so much harder for him.
He will be losing David Wear and Travis Wear to graduation, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine to the draft and yet unknown if Norman Powell will follow suit. UCLA could quite possibly lose all their starters. Perfect. I’m sure he did not see that one coming.
In the fall he has the #7 recruiting class in the country coming in (four big men, all 6’8” or taller), but only has returners Bryce Alford, Tony Parker that played significant minutes. Not only does he have to start over, but he has to start over with new pieces and a whole new strategy with very little chance of continuity. He now knows how big the UCLA gig is.
What Coach Alford needs to do is try to pick up another guard in the off-season, preferably a point guard or pure shooter, because they are extremely thin in the backcourt. They will utilize the talents of Noah Allen, Wanaah Bail and Isaac Hamilton, but it is unclear how much each will contribute next season. Hamilton has potential and is said to be sharing PG duties with Bryce Alford, so hopefully things will not be as shaky as previously perceived if they cannot get a skilled floor general.
Steve Alford could go two ways with this team:
1. Do as best as they can and weather the storm of a horrible season and wait for 4-star PG Aaron Holiday to come in and lead this team, or…
2. Thye could find some early cohesion and be successful next season. Bryce Alford and Hamilton could do a decent job running the floor and who knows, one of the recruits might be the next Alfred Aboya, Kevin Love or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Keep an eye on Kevon Looney in the fall.
There is still a long way to basketball season, so Alford has time, but he has no time to waste. If he wants to maximize his talent, he needs to start by eradicating what did not work last year and drive home what did. The up-tempo is good, but if he has no one to control it, it will be for naught.
Many will start to put the pressure on him if not successful in year two, but many need to realize it takes a time to build what most want… championships.