Los Angeles Lakers Coaching Search: Steve Alford – the “Dark Horse” Candidate?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Steve Alford maybe the ultimate “dark horse” candidate to be next head-coach of the Los Angles Lakers with enormous potential to jump-start the legendary NBA franchise.

These are not the best times for basketball fans in Los Angeles. Things are pretty ugly for hoops fans in our school's backyard. For the Lakers fans though there maybe be some hope as one of the NBA's most glorious franchises is currently on the lookout for a new head-coach.

Searching for a new head-coach to lead a major sports franchise or program can be a stressful ordeal. We have had our share of  experiences with that kind of stress in this blog. I feel for my fellow Bruin alumni who are die-hard Lakers fans. I really do. So to offer some support, I'd love to suggest a unique candidate to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a brand new era of domination in the NBA.

He lives in Los Angeles and has just finished what appears to be - at least on paper - an extremely successful season for one of the most storied programs in college basketball. He was a legendary high school star from one of America's most basketball-crazy states, and he reached immortal status after he led that state's flagship college program to NCAA championship while being coached by one of the game's all-time greats.

Stephen "Todd" Steve Alford, the current head coach of UCLA Bruins and the former Indiana Hoosier superstar, who turned New Mexico Lobos into a basketball powerhouse in the Southwest, could be the ultimate "dark horse candidate for the L.A. Lakers. Hiring Coach Alford could turn out to be a brilliant move by the Laker brass, which desperately needs a masterstroke to super-charge the legendary franchise. Some of you are already on to this, but let me tell you why this is not a crazy idea.

Think this through folks. There are many reasons why Alford just may be the right guy for the purple and gold. Alford has been under intense pressure from one of the most crazy, demanding fan-bases in America (I am looking at all of you here). We have been on him relentlessly ever since the day our esteemed athletic director introduced to the UCLA community. Despite all the criticisms, Coach Alford put together an incredible basketball season in which the Bruins won the Pac-12 tournament and made a stunning, memorable and an emotional run to the Sweet-16 (it's a BFD unless you are one of those ungrateful, mean UCLA basketball fans who drove off great coaches like Steve Lavin to ESPN studios).

You can't argue with facts people:

  • Alford guided UCLA to a 28-9 overall record and appearance in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in 2013-14, in his first season in Westwood. It was first Sweet 16 appearance and first Pac-12 Tournament title since 2008.
  • Alford's 28 single-season wins in 2013-14 tied the school record for most victories by a coach in his first season at UCLA (Gene Bartow went 28-4 in 1975-76).
  • The Bruins averaged 81.2 points per game, the program's highest scoring average since 1997-98 (83.1 ppg), and finished the season with the nation's 11th-highest scoring average.
  • In 23 seasons as a head coach, Alford's teams have qualified for the postseason 18 times, including eight NCAA Division I Tournament berths. Alford has led his teams to the postseason in 13 of the last 14 seasons and has reached the 20-win plateau in 12 of his 19 years at the NCAA Division I level.
  • Alford has coached his teams to at least 28 wins in each of the last three seasons and to at least 22 victories the last seven years.
  • Alford has recorded more NCAA victories (491) as a collegiate head coach, age 50 or younger, than any other head coach in the nation.
  • Through 23 seasons as a college head coach, Alford has compiled a 491-244 (.668) overall record.

I know. I know. Some of you haterz will bring up Harvard. To those haterz, I give you this:

That can happen to anyone.

There is more to Coach Alford than just the facts I listed above.  Here are some factors for the Laker brass to consider:

Coach Alford brought an exciting (!) style of basketball to Westwood lighting up the UCLA fan-base who were tired of slow-prodding basketball from the Howland era. I mean this is LA. We rather have a running and gunning, exciting (!) team than a group of lug leaning on unwatchable "defense-oriented" (yawn) hoops to lose big games in the Final-4s. Who cares about defense and Final-4s. We rather have a team blitzkriegs hapless opponents out of the gym!

Coach Alford can connect with today's ballers. It was not a coincidence that NBA talents like Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams flourished in his offense. I would argue that Coach Alford in some-ways hyper-boosted the development of NBA talent of a blue-chip recruit like Zach LaVine, facilitating his jump to NBA after just one memorable season in Westwood. Unlike Howland who took two years ready to get someone like Russell Westbrook ready for the League, Alford got LaVine ready in just one.

Coach Alford's unique offense. I mentioned the explosiveness of Coach Alford's offense above.  Here is the unique part of it that makes it so perfect for the NBA. You see, Coach Alford's offense is so multi-dimensional that you don't need an elite point-guard to run it at an extremely high level. Anyone can run the point in his offense. Anyone. Yes, yes Alford's son has been a heated topic of discussion here and elsewhere for running the point in Westwood. But, just like his Dad, the facts are on the side of Bryce Alford, who was selected to Pac-12's All-Freshman Team. You can't argue with that folks just like you couldn't argue when Coach Lavin's peers selected as him as Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Wait, where was I?

I am saying that you can't argue with the uniqueness of Coach Alford's offense, which could be lethal in the NBA. If the Lakers don't hire Alford, just watch the Bruins make a blistering run through the Pac-12 conference and dance into the second weekend of the Big-Dance with bunch of freshman bigs, Norm Powell and Bryce Alford.

Coach Alford's admirable loyalty. This is something that is totally under-rated. In a league that puts a huge premium on loyalty Coach Alford's dedication to his players would be an incredible asset for whoever hires him. Lot of haters talk about how Alford left New Mexico 10 days after signing a 10-year contract extension. What they don't really highlight is Coach Alford's legendary loyalty to his players. If anyone doubts us, just ask Pierre Pierce who will tell you how Alford has always been in his "corner." That kind of loyalty will be huge for NBA players who sometimes get into tough situations. They often need a coach in their "corners" and no one is better suited for that role than Coach Alford.

Coach Alford can handle the pressure. I don't think I need to add much here. Coach Alford has been nothing but graceful in Westwood's pressure cooker and has just finished one of the best UCLA basketball seasons during athletic director Guerrero's tenure. He is on his way to becoming next UCLA great (give him at least 17 years and he will undoubtedly bring home a natty just like another famous Hoosier who once coached the Bruins).

I wish teams like the Lakers don't find out about Alford. But I think it will be hard to keep Coach Alford's first successful season in Westwood under the radar. Already we have seen chatter about Indiana maybe going after its favorite son.

You see folks. There is a reason why Coach Alford is the 7th highest paid basketball coach in the NCAA, only behind sure-fire Hall of Famers like Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Bill Self, Billy Donovan and Tom Izzo. While Coach Alford's contract make may "no sense," (haters call it "obscene") you can see from the facts and factors above there is a good reason why our savvy athletic director went all out to lock him up with a "generous" contract.

Times are tough in Tinsel town.  Alford to Lakers just maybe the move that will electrify LA hoops.  Imagine the Alford-Rivers showdown at Staples. As a Bruin die-hard it will be tough for us to let go of Coach Alford. We are going to be just fine with Guerrero in charge. After all it was Mr. Guerrero who brought Jim Mora to UCLA.

Go Bruins!!!

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