Some say that Bruins Nation is too critical of Steve Alford who has yet to coach a game at UCLA. Personally I think there is plenty to criticize in his hiring, his actions at Iowa, his failure in the tournament etc. But again, that is all in the past and I guess those critics say we should not live in the past but give him a chance. However, what is going on right now in the context of the past may tell us something.
Okay, let's judge him on what he has done so far as coach in the very important area of recruiting. Below is a brief analysis of each recruit put in some context.
1. Bryce Alford.
Bryce is obviously a special case. Technically he left the school he was committed to for a UCLA scholarship. Some are mad he is holding a scholarship. Some are taking at their anger at Steve Alford on Bryce Alford. I don't want to touch those issues, other than to say I feel sorry for Bryce. I will root for Bryce to have a great experience at America's premier university.
However, Bryce's recruitment is hurting UCLA for another reason, Steve Alford's PR bungling. From Jack Wang:
Q: Did Steve Alford purposefully miss out on point guards so that he would be "forced" to play his son? And has the fact that he has a PG son driven PG recruits away?
No. You don't purposely turn down talent if you want to keep your job long-term - absurd contract security or not. Some recruits could be turned off by the idea of nepotism, even if it's only perceived, but I don't think it's the primary factor.
I think it is used against Alford more than Wang thinks. My second problem here is Alford could have avoided this whole issue. He emphatically declared his son a point guard. Why? What good does it do? I guarantee that Snider, McLaughlin and Perkins all heard from others something like "do you want to compete as a freshman against the coach's son who will be a starting point guard." Look if Bryce Alford turns out to be the next Jordan Farmar, great, then Snider/Perkins/McLaughlin could have been the next Darren Collison signed behind him as a recruit. Remember Howland's final four teams all had two NBA point guards.
So Alford's PR mistakes of his past, came back to bite him here.
2. Wannah Bail.
Wannah Bail is a good athlete but he has an interesting history. Wannah did not play for the Texas school that he signed for out of high school and he bounced around a lot in high school. He has some baggage real or perceived. He may not be eligible to play this season because of issues with his transfer.
3. Trevon Bluiett.
I like what I have read and heard about Bluiett. He is ranked as the 41st best player in the 2014 class by ESPN. He is in the Jordan Adams, Michael Roll sort of mold. Not sure he will be that good (although he is rated higher in high school) but he is a kid I welcome and think is a great part of any UCLA class. He seems like a hard worker.
Bluiett is from Indiana and was coached by UCLA assistant coach Ed Schilling in high school. Schilling led Bluiett's recruitment. In a sense this is a latter Howland style recruit, he came with the assistant.
4. Isaac Hamilton
Hamilton comes from a line of basketball players that stretches to the NBA and other high school prospects. He is a top 20 recruit and a very good wing who can really score. He has some baggage real or perceived. He may not be eligible to play this season because of issues with his transfer from a Texas school. (Sound familiar?)
A sample of this baggage is he wanted to transfer to be near his sick Grandmother and former SUC coach Tom Floyd who recruited him is accusing USC and others of tampering with him. It is worth noting his younger brother is planning on going as far away from Grandma as possible to UCONN.
This may all be nothing but sour grapes or it could be signs of well baggage.
By the numbers for Alford's four recruits so far.
- 1 from California or PAC 12 school states
- 3 committed to other schools first (obviously an asterisk should be by Bryce on this one)
- 0 point guards (Bryce is a combo guard at best according to everyone not named Alford)
- 2 that are technically 2013 recruits but likely will not be able to play until 2014-15
- 1 big
- 2 recruits with baggage
- 2 other recruits who came because of their connections to coaches prior to UCLA
Some thoughts. If you think about Alford's past in the most positive light what he did best was rehabilitate players with problems (Kendall Williams, Tony Snell and Drew Gordon) to make them better players. As UCLA fans we need to remember that Drew Gordon was allegedly worse than Reeves Nelson, yet Alford made him a star without destroying his team.
This brings me back where I started though. Alford's history is relevant. He sucks at public relations and that will be used against him as it is with his son and point guards. He is striking out and having to recruit/accept players that MAY have issues and those with strong connections to the coaching staff. That is fine at a New Mexico where you have to pick among the leftovers but worrisome at a UCLA. Howland was fired in part because he could not recruit California and/or a point guard. So far Alford is failing as well.
In a sense those that say we should wait until the season may be right for a different reason. Alford's failures at recruiting a point guard specifically and recruiting generally make a good-to-great season imperative to attract some good recruits. If he does not have a very good season, 2014-15 will likely be a long point guard-less season.
UPDATED: ESPN's Jason King has a take (after making the traditional BS caveats) that is worth mentioning on this post, emphasis mine.
He inherited a team that returns a likely first-round NBA draft pick in Kyle Anderson and a trio of proven forwards in David and Travis Wear and Jordan Adams. Arizona may be the clear-cut favorite in the Pac-12, but UCLA will be expected to at least make the race interesting. If the Bruins don't, Alford will endure a boatload of criticism, especially considering the lukewarm reception to his hiring by fans and media. Alford's lack of NCAA tournament success -- and his mediocre performance on the recruiting trail thus far -- has prompted some concerns about his ability to return UCLA to its days of dominance. And his often prickly personality may make it tough to win over fans. As a player at Indiana, Alford grew used to being in the spotlight. But never during his coaching career has he encountered what lies ahead during his first season at UCLA.