So Steve Alford and New Mexico Vice President of Athletics Paul Krebs held a goodbye press conference in New Mexico yesterday. I am posting the video of the cliché filled presser during which Alford mentioned about 10 times how UCLA had reached out to him in last few days about the jobs.
While calling UCLA the "pinnacle" of his profession (which is nice) Alford mentioned that the opportunity "came out of left field" (Dan Guerrero sure is methodical about his search) and that folks in Albuquerque shouldn't take it all so personally because this was "just a career path" (even though he signed a 10 year K extension just days ago).
It was amusing to hear Alford kept talking about the MWC championships as the sign of excellence until a reporter finally put him on the spot asking whether he also considered routinely getting bounced in the first round as a sign of excellence as well. He mentioned how he is going to hold on those conference championship rings, but I hope he is not planning to play that card when he takes over here in Westwood. Whatever.
What does matter though is what Alford is going to do for us here at UCLA. While we are going to give him a shot - we expect him to produce - and produce right away. He just got a massive pay raise and a 7 year deal to coach an iconic program even though by all objective measures he didn't belong even in the second tier of any credible coaching list (his alma mater passed on him TWICE and Hoosier fans don't care much for him).
So the pressure is on Alford now. We will lay out the expectations for next season in due time. In the meantime, Alford needs to step up and show his ability as a "recruiter" (which apparently is supposed to be one of his strong points as he is not a very good X and O coach) and manager of the program. We expect him to get off to the same spectacular start Jim Mora did as the football head coach when he took over the program setting him in position to meet the minimum expectations in his first season. Here are some of the things we expect from Alford in the next few days, weeks and months to shore up the UCLA roster:
- Hold on to all non-Shabazz recruits in our current roster. It looks like Kyle Anderson will return, which is great. But we expect Alford to get it done by making sure Tony Parker remains a Bruin and that Norman Powell doesn't transfer anywhere else. Again, Alford is getting
overpaid bymillions as the highest paid coach in the Pac-12 conference (yes, really). So holding on to kids like Tony Parker is part of his job.
- He needs to hold on to all of our committed recruits. This shouldn't be that difficult because the recruits who came on board committed more towards the four letters than someone like Ben Howland (whose reputation was already toast on the recruiting trail).
- Sign key recruits in spring. UCLA doesn't have an elite pg on its roster and Rysheed Jordan is still on the board with the Bruins in his list. Alford needs to reel him. Here is also Aaron Gordon. When Alford hiring news was announce here was a key note from BruinReportOnline (not behind paid firewall):
Alford's hiring could reap some immediate recruiting benefits. Alford coached UCLA transfer Drew Gordon at New Mexico and Gordon's younger brother, Aaron Gordon, the 6-9 forward from San Jose (Calif.) Archibishop Mitty, is one of the top unsigned players in the country for the class of 2013.[Emphasis mine]
Well perhaps getting a player like Gordon in the 11th hour is a huge challenge. But that note was there on BRO for a reason b/c it played up Alford's ability as a recruiter, and we will be disappointed if he fails to make a serious play for him.
- Recruit a viable big man. Perhaps someone like Alex Kirk, a 7-foot redshirt sophomore at New Mexico will follow Alford to Westwood. We will see. If not him Alford will have to find someone else.
- Bring in strong assistants in the mold of Kerry Keating, who not only could relate to players but was well plugged in West Coast and Southern California recruiting scene. Alford must reestablish UCLA's dominance in Southern California and put up a picket fence around LA. We will watch very closely what kind of coaches he hire to build his new staff.
I am sure there are other key factors we could also enlist in terms of what we expect from Alford in the short term. If you think of them please share in the comment threads. The new Bruin coach will get a fair shot from us but he needs to get the program going from Day 1.