Jan 16, 2014; Boulder, CO, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Steve Alford in the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center. The Bruins defeated the Buffaloes 69-56. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Can Steve Alford Win A Championship At UCLA?

The goal of the UCLA head basketball coach is to win a championship, it goes with the territory. Since John Wooden won ten in his time at UCLA, only one coach has successfully won another, that would be Jim Harrick in 1995. UCLA has hired three coaches since that time with only one championship game appearance. That puts a lot of pressure on Steve Alford. He is one year into his challenge of making the Bruins a contender, but like every coach after him, it will be asked, “can he win a championship?”

Coaching Style

In his first year, Alford implemented an up-tempo style of basketball that utilized the strengths of his players. Kyle Anderson was in control of the court as floor general, Jordan Adams was free to score at will and the team took one of its deepest NCAA tournament runs in years. He allowed his team to play their game and it paid dividends. The 2013-14 Bruins took a step back in some places, but excelled in most others.

Season Record (Overall, Conf.) Finish (NCAA/ Pac-12) Points Rebounds Assists Steals FG%
 2012-13  25-10, 13-5 (1st) 2nd Rd./Finals 74.4 36.5  16.0 8.1 .451
2013-14  28-9, 12-6 (2nd) Sweet 16/Champs 81.2 35.6 17.2 9.2 .490

Overall, his coaching ability is inconsistent. Luckily, he had his team playing better more often than not. Alford did not have his team come out ready for several early season games. Both contests against Missouri and Duke were downright painful. BUT, the team did improve over the season and this cannot be denied. The Bruins came from behind (after being down at halftime) five times in conference play, otherwise they were blowing out their opponents.

But on the opposite end of that discussion, when UCLA lost, they lost bad. The Bruins had horrible defeats at Stanford, at Oregon State, at Utah and the worst of all, a 73-55 butt-whooping at Washington State. The inconsistency needs to wrangle in for next season. Last year, the Bruins were really good, but they were not feared. Alford needs to change that and make this team a beast.

Player Rapport

At least the exits have not stopped in Westwood. What plagued former coach Ben Howland, seems to have infected Steve Alford. The Bruins officially have five players leaving the program, as of now. David Wear and Travis Wear are graduating while Adams, Anderson and Zach LaVine have taken off for the NBA. The exits by Anderson and Adams were expected, but LaVine is a different story. His exit was a bit uglier as it got out that LaVine was unsatisfied with his role and decided to leave early. That is fine, but it was the comments by his family, specifically godfather, Marvin Carter, that made the exit a bit awkward, “Every year he spends at UCLA after this one is a waste”.

Now is this single event, or are more problems going to arise in the coming years? One hopes that this is a one-time situation where player and coach did not mesh well, but if this continues, things will not mesh well for Alford and the Bruin Faithful.

Recruiting

Recruiting has been good for Alford. Not only has he locked up two elite point guards in the next three seasons, but also has a tall class of big men coming this fall. Kevon Looney, Thomas Welsh, Jonah Bolden and Gyorgy Goloman are all talented players who should contribute immediately to UCLA’s front court. The only problem is that he has no elite point guard for the coming season and no one else locked up for the seasons following. It is not likely that he will get any PG for the fall, but Alford has time to snag several other recruits in the future. So far, he gets a thumbs up on this one.

So Can He Win A Championship?

With the calamity that is college basketball, one can never guarantee anything. Injuries, one-and-dones, luck, venues, coaching… these among other things factor into a potential championship run. Steve Alford has already proven that can win AND recruit, but now he has to bring it all together and make UCLA basketball a dominant force once again. Alford is only entering his second year and despite the prestige of UCLA, it takes time for any coach to get their system implemented and draw success from that. So can he win a championship? Of course. Will he? That is to be determined.

Mike W.R.

Twitter: @TheBigDisco

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