UCLA Basketball: Give Steve A Chance


Steve Alford, Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This Go Joe Bruin contributor is rooting for Steve Alford, which means a few things to me.

First, it means not getting caught up in creating artificial, unrealistic measuring sticks. One example of that would be tagging Alford with a demerit for not landing Rysheed Jordan. Landing Jordan would probably have been a great get in that he was the highest rated PG left on the board—a position the Bruins need a better answer for than “by committee.” That stated, Jordan was a recruit, not a commit. If he had committed to UCLA, and then bailed when Alford was hired, it’d be reasonable to criticize him (or at least his hire). However, that’s not the case, so it’s not realistic to slam Alford for a perceived miss on Jordan.

Rooting for Steve Alford also means honestly assessing his early decisions, like his choices for assistant coaches. Alford has brought in his own people to assist rather than retaining Ben Howland‘s staff. That’s not unusual. (I definitely applaud his retention of Bruins great Tyus Edney as Director of Operations.) Alford’s hires of Duane Broussard, Ed Schilling and David Grace bring an interesting mix of scouting, recruiting and connections, X’s and O’s, and coaching experience with them. It’ll be intriguing to watch how their efforts combine to, hopefully, produce the kind of basketball product fans expect at UCLA. Some have chosen already to openly attack Alford’s assistant choices, but it seems to me that doing so hints at a level of cynicism that goes beyond normal fan skepticism.

Rooting for Steve Alford certainly means moving on from his supposed past transgression in regards to his handling of the Pierre Pierce saga. Alford was recently browbeaten into apologizing for his actions in defense of his player over a decade ago at Iowa. That should be enough. He didn’t commit a crime. He was just politically incorrect in his zealous defense of his player. He formally apologized in the press. It’s time to move on.

Rooting for Alford definitely means taking a huge “chill pill” and seeing what the man can do as the UCLA head coach. Like a stock prospectus, past performance isn’t a guarantee of future results. Maybe Alford continues to underperform in the NCAA Tourney or maybe his Bruins begin a new era of tourney success. Who knows? What I do know is that attacking the man for his salary before he’s even had one season at the helm speaks of envy rather than genuine criticism.

Rooting for Steve Alford definitely means taking the healthy approach that his reign as the Bruins’ leader is a “clean slate.” He hasn’t failed to advance in the NCAA Tourney since coming to Westwood. He hasn’t had a single player transfer from UCLA. He hasn’t lost to anyone he shouldn’t have at Pauley Pavilion. So far, so good.

Finally, rooting for Steve Alford means tapping into some relentless optimism. He and his staff are respected as individual coaches with credible experience. He has retained the kids one could reasonably expect him to retain. He does bring renewed hope of locking down the California talent pool. He is perceived as a “players’ coach.” In this context, it’s patently unfair and short-sighted to spew vitriol his way when he hasn’t even coached one game and has done nothing to anyone associated with or that is a fan of the UCLA program. To the extent that some folks who call themselves fans of UCLA have gone, it is most certainly embarrassing. It sez here we should give Steve a chance.