Tag Archives: Steve Alford

Alford Takes Blame for Bruins’ Lackluster Season

It’s not very often that the head coach of a college basketball program returns contract money to the university, but that is exactly what UCLA men’s basketball coach Steve Alford did after a disappointing 15-17 season. In an open letter written by Alford dedicated to fans of the UCLA program, he announced his intentions by stating, “At the end of the day, year three was clearly not up to UCLA standards. My coaching staff and I fell short not only of our own expectations, but the expectations of athletic director Dan Guerrero, the Chancellor and you, our fans…As a coaching staff, we intend to earn that extension back.” Alford’s announcement was made shortly after multiple banners were seen flying through campus calling for Alford’s removal from the program.

It was not all bad for the a Bruins team that defeated then first ranked Kentucky on December 3rd, and earned an impressive road victory at Gonzaga December 12th. Despite gaining momentum during the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Bruins were a disappointing 6-12 in Pac-12 play. Junior and Los Angeles native Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins in scoring on the year, contributing nearly 17 points per game. UCLA also received key contributions from Sophomore big man Thomas Welsh, and the son of head coach Steve Alford, Bryce Alford who will also be returning for his final go-around as a Bruin next season.

Conference play proved to be too daunting of a task for this years’ UCLA team, as the Bruins were only able to pick up one win against a ranked Pac-12 team. The lone victory came against then-seventh ranked Arizona 87-84 on January 7th. However, inconsistency was a major theme for UCLA this season, as bad losses against Washington State and Stanford combined with a much improved Pac-12 spelled doom for the year’s version of the UCLA Bruins.

Despite the lackluster regular season, the Bruins, like all Division I programs, had the chance to make a run in their conference tournament and steal and a bid to the NCAA tournament. This dream came to a crashing halt, as the Bruins received a thrashing at the hands of bitter crosstown rival USC 95-71 in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. With their final loss of the season, the Bruins finished a disappointing 0-3 against their hated rival for the first time since 1954.

Alford and his coaching staff originally received a contract extension through the 2020-2021 season after taking the school to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago for the first time since 2008. However, help should be on the way for the Bruins as five star recruits Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf are both committed to UCLA as well as four of the top five scorers on the team have at least one year of eligibility left.

Despite this year’s struggles, the Bruins still remain one of the most appealing destinations for a potential recruit. Not only are the Bruins able to sell the beautiful city of Los Angeles, but they are also able to harp on their rich history which includes eleven national championships. While it is extremely refreshing to see a coach take direct responsibility for the lack of his team’s success, the Bruins should be back in the NCAA Tournament field in no time.

Email Alec at alec.kwait@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @alec_kwait.

Photo: SD Dirk/Flickr.

UCLA Makes Size the Issue and Takes Down Arizona State

With March Madness creeping around the corner for college basketball there are teams looking toward their tournament bid and then there are teams that are hanging onto some thought of a miracle. With UCLA and Arizona State taking to the court to battle on Sunday night, both of these teams were hanging on by prayer to any postseason hope and by postseason hope I mean the NIT, not the “Big Dance”. This game was a huge game in terms of that slim hope because the teams came with records of 14-11 for the Sun Devils and 13-11 for UCLA.

Sometimes just having that hope is all a team needs to keep things going for them and on Sunday night both the Sun Devils and Bruins played like it was their last game of the season. Both teams had the touch going early and that was a good sign for Arizona State especially since they started so cold from the field against USC on Friday night.

UCLA tried to make an issue about their size difference inside in the first half, but the Sun Devils didn’t seem concerned as they got baskets inside and got hot from the perimeter. If it were not for a few missed attempts right at the basket, the Devils may have had a bigger lead instead of being tied or it being a one or two possession game most of the first half.

One of the issues in the first half for both teams was neither was really wanting to take control of the game. Just when I thought Arizona State was starting to get their flow going, here came UCLA to take the lead or tie it. When it came to UCLA gaining momentum, the Sun Devils got hot from the field and tied it or took a slight lead. Who was going to impose their will in the second half? Whomever did was going to be clinging to that slight hope of a post season berth.

Teams went to the half with the score 37-35 UCLA in the lead.

UCLA took control early in the second half by taking advantage of their size. They got their big men some easy opportunities and continued to hit at a pretty decent clip from the field. They opened up a seven point lead with 14 minutes left. However, that is an eternity in basketball, but the size difference was starting to show for the Bruins.

Was there anything that the Sun Devils could do to keep the Bruins from winning the game?

The answer to that was a resounding no. The Sun Devils decided that missing free throws, missing shots, and turning the ball over was what they wanted to do. Seriously, once the game got under the 10 minute mark it was over.

Open jump shots were not falling. It didn’t matter if the Sun Devils were in paint or shooting from the three point arch. Nothing was falling for them and there was little Head Coach Bobby Hurley could do to stem the tide. He decided to see if the team could just shoot their way out of it. That didn’t happen, the Sun Devils just shot their way out of the game and lost 78-65.

“Our first media timeout we were 2-10, our second media time out we were 3-13, we were missing free throws. Anytime we had a sniff of getting the game in a close margin, we refused to make shots, free throws, and layups.” Said a frustrated Head Coach Bobby Hurley.

This was such a tough, frustrating game for Arizona State that in his post-game press conference Bobby Hurley almost seemed at a loss of words. He wants to win every game like every coach does, but this won stung his program a little bit more tonight.

“Obviously a tough loss, I felt like we were on the verge of something tonight. Like there has been this year, there has been progress and there has been regress. We regressed again tonight.” Coach Hurley mentioned at beginning of the press conference.

Like any team trying to turn the corner and become a winner, Arizona State still has a lot of work ahead of itself with its basketball program. They have a bit of talent, but they are small. UCLA was big and long and it caused enormous issues for the Sun Devils. What happens now? Well, the Sun Devils need to finish the season out as strong as possible to help recruit bigger, longer, more talented kids to the desert. Winning helps everything, but it really helps perception for a program like ASU because when talented kids think of basketball in Arizona they don’t think of the Sun Devils they think of their rivals to the south in Tucson.

I, for one, love a balanced conference, so I am rooting for the Sun Devils to field a better team in the future. However, only time will tell with this program. Forks Up Sun Devil fans.