Why UCLA has not won a major championship recently (cont.)
The UCLA basketball team had their return to glory when they hired Ben Howland in 2003. In his third year, the former coach had UCLA back in the National Championship Game. Not just a Pac-12 title, not just in the Sweet Sixteen, not just in the Final Four… in the National Championship Game.
In the next two years, Howland would have UCLA return to the Final Four, making it the first time since John Wooden that a coach would take the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours. This was a good sign for the Bruins, but it was not good enough for Howland.
The reason his empire fell was that he strayed from his plan. He went against what made him successful and tried to rebuild his foundation. Instead of looking for hard-nosed 3/4-star players, he opted for elite 4/5-star players. Some worked out, but some were not good for the program, his style of discipline, and his style of basketball. The problem with his new focus on recruiting was that too many of these players that he brought to Westwood can be best described as “head cases”. Not only did a few players have a run in with the law, but they were nothing like the players that took UCLA to three straight Final Fours. Howland smashed his foundation in an attempt to build another and it failed.
Howland was fired in 2013 and replaced with a coach that should have never been the head of the most storied program in NCAA basketball history (for multiple reasons), Steve Alford.
Not only was Alford unproven as a head coach, but he also had a lot of baggage. Back when he was the head coach at Iowa, he was entangled in a messy situation that involved allegations of sexual assault with one of his players, Pierre Pierce. Essentially, Alford “shielded” Pierce and even tried to coerce the victim of the crime in question to keep quiet about the situation. Yet he was still hired by Guerrero.
On the court, he did not do enough to keep his post and after five and a half seasons, he was fired after the Bruins started the 2018-19 season with a 7-6 record. This only added to the underwhelming resume he had with UCLA. In Westwood, they look to hang championship banners, yet in his tenure, Alford only won one Pac-12 Tournament Championship and never went past the Sweet Sixteen. Alford could recruit, but he could not coach, at least at the level UCLA requires. He had no foundation, had a series of bad relationships with players, and simply never evolved. All of this which led to his termination.