UCLA's Long Con with Steve Alford
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The UCLA Bruins' storied basketball program took a couple hits in the last six months.
But keep in mind that, even though the John Wooden Era is long, long gone -- UCLA fans hold themselves to a higher standard than all but a few programs in the country. And really, it's a disservice to the team. Take last season:
- They barely won the Pac-12 regular season title, and lost in the championship tournament to upstart Oregon.
- They went into the tournament as a No 6 seed and were upset by Tubby Smith's 11th-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers.
And that was the end of the Ben Howland Era, which in the eyes of Bruins Nation, underachieved that last five years. Never mind the fact that he was their second-winningest coach and got UCLA to the Final Four three times in a row. Problem was, they came early in his tenure. What had he done for them lately?
Well, failure to recruit for the locals comes to mind.
Trying to find a high-profile replacement was a shocking experience for UCLA. The Bruins were spurred by several big names like Butler's (at the time) Brad Stevens and VCU's Shaka Smart.
The Bruins finally settled on -- or settled for? -- Steve Alford, stealing him away from New Mexico, right after he signed an extension with the Lobos. Now the Bruins have their man for the next six to seven years, whether they like it or not.
The Alford hire was questionable, no doubt, as the deal they gave him has essentially guaranteed him employment. The buyout is so high that there is basically no way that:
- Alford will be swayed somewhere else,
- UCLA will fire him, or
- he will quit before four years on the job.
There is only one positive for Alford that UCLA fans might not particularly enjoy; he's got time to build his program, his way.