Monthly Archives: March 2013


Steve-AlfordSteve Lavin Images

March 30th, 2013

When I work up this morning, I had to double check the date to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s day.  Much to my disappointment, it was only March 30th.  That meant the ESPN report that Steve Alford would be hired as the next UCLA coach was true.

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero confirmed in a conference call Saturday morning that Alford will receive a 7 year $18.2 million contract.  Alford will be paid $2.6 million per season, along with a $200,000 signing bonus to cover a buyout from his contract with New Mexico.

So let me get this straight: Ben Howland hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 in the last 5 years, and the Bruins just hired a coach who has been there just once in the last 18 years??  Not only is this a let down for Bruin fans, it’s an obvious downgrade from Howland and Steve Lavin.

Let me try to highlight the few positives of hiring Alford.  Alford has had success recruiting on the west coast.  He lured MWC player of the year Kendall Williams to New Mexico, as well as Riverside product Tony Snell, who has developed into an NBA prospect.  The Bruins may also now have a shot at elite 2013 recruit Aaron Gordon, who is still undecided on where he will attend college.  UCLA might also be able to steal a few undecided recruits to add some depth to their roster for next year as well.

Still, the drawbacks are devastatingly disappointing.  Alford hardly brings the “uptempo style” that Guerrero claims.  His teams were only 239th in the nation in possessions per 40 minutes, a style that is very similar to Howland’s.  In fact,  Alford’s teams have typically been know for their defensive discipline.

Even more disappointing is Alford’s post season record of just 5-7 in the NCAA Tournament.  This includes losses to two 14th ranked teams in the opening weekend of the tournament this past season vs Harvard, and vs Northwestern State while coaching Iowa.

To put it in perspective, UCLA just hired a poor man’s Steve Lavin as their next head basketball coach.  Lavin was a great recruiter, but had some up and down regular seasons, and a limited amount of post season success.  Alford may have had more solid regular seasons, but almost no post season success.

Any Bruins fan that is content with the hiring of Alford is simply relieved that Ben Howland is gone and that there will be a new coach with a new approach.  However, within two years UCLA fans will calling for the firing of both Alford and Guerrero.







Smart To Stay At VCU?




March 28th, 2013

On Wednesday, Shaka Smart informed ESPN.COM via text message that he would be remain the head coach at VCU.  The University also issued a statement announcing that changes are being finalized to Smart’s contract.

These developments come as a major disappointment to the UCLA Bruins and their fan base, as the Bruins had hoped to lure Smart to Westwood to become to be their next men’s basketball head coach.

Many Bruin fans are asking themselves: Was Shaka Smart sniffing glue??? How can someone turn down the head coaching job at UCLA in favor of VCU???  Unfortunately for Bruins fans, they might need a reality check on what it really means to be the Head Coach of the UCLA mens basketball team.

Of course Smart would probably double his current $1.4 million salary by coaching UCLA instead of VCU.  Of course Smart would be coaching a much more prestigious college basketball name with great tradition in UCLA than VCU.  And of course he would be living in glamorous Southern California, as opposed to the dumps of Richmond, Virginia.  However, with all those advantages comes tremendous pressure and expectations that may be difficult to live up to.

The Bruins just fired Ben Howland, who made it to 3 final fours, won 4 conference regular season titles, two conference tournament titles, and had an overall record of 230-105 during his 10 year tenure.  To put it in perspective, no other Pac-12 team has made it to the Final Four in the last 10 years, while Howland has done it 3 times!  That in itself is a lofty standard to exceed, let alone live up to, for a coach in his 4th year in a mid-major conference.

In 4 years, Smart’s team has made it to one Final Four, but has never won his conference regular season title, and they were eliminated in the third round of the tournament the last two years.  By UCLA standards, this would already have many of the Bruins donors and influential alumni concerned, and making calls to Dan Guerrero complaining this isn’t good enough.

By no means is this article intended to diminish what Smart has accomplished at VCU.  Instead, it is intended to show how easily he could turn down the UCLA job based off what he might feel are unrealistic expectations.  At VCU, Smart has already begun to build great basketball tradition, and is building legendary status with the athletic department and the fans.  In Westwood, he has to follow in the footsteps of the greatest coach of all time, and one of the most accomplished college coaches in the last 10 years.

It isn’t wrong for the Bruins to have aspirations of winning the Pac 12 every year, and being in contention for a national title.  The Duke and Kansas men’s basketball programs are faced with the same lofty expectations year in and year out, and are able to re-load their teams without even blinking.  However, there are only a special group of coaches who will be able to run these type of programs.  Rick Pitino? Billy Donovan? Tom Izzo?  These are the guys the Bruins need, but none of them are attainable.   But maybe the Bruins should have thought of that before sending Howland packing.