UCLA fans do not, as a habit, cry fouls, become hysterical, unconsolable because UCLA lost a game. Some of you hails from those winning, dynasty years while I came at the tail end of it. You have more seniority than I do in what I am saying here.
When UCLA blew a comfortable lead, lost to Notre Dame at South Bend on a snowy, cold winter night in 1973, it snapped an eighty eight game win streak. Nobody said COACH was at fault, least of all his players. We played hard. The Fighting Irish, true to its name, happened to play harder and better.
The following year, just before the tournament when UCLA, again the prohibitive favorite for a tenth consecutive title, somehow lost the last two away games of the season to, yes you got it, Oregon and Oregon State, nobody was up in arms, decrying the lackluster performance of the players. If there were critics, they never singled out Bill Walton, the leader of the gang nor COACH. We won so much, so well in such convincing fashion for so long then. Somebody just sneaked up on us.
So that was it. No uproar demanding COACH retiring.
At the tournament that year, little known Davidson College ( or university ) almost did us in too. Of course the incredible shocker remained the huge upset by NC State. For the first time in years, UCLA was not in the championship game or being crowned champion.
We had to play for third place finish even. That was the rule then. What a crying shame. Again, nobody hung their heads, lamenting the good old days had passed UCLA by.
The following season, COACH's last, he lost a lopsided one to Washington at Seattle. That was the very first conference game even.
Did he blame the players ? Did he ever say anything about losing Bill Walton to graduation made it difficult to win ? Did he also feel sorry for himself that his preparations, strategies etc went down the drain because the team let him down ?
We know how the season ended at San Diego Arena that year.
This is the moral. You win and lose game with your team. But being coach, the buck stops at your desk. Harry Truman - not to inject politics now - could have told Steve Alford that.