Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register asked UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero why he awarded head basketball coach Steve Alford with a contract extension after just one season. Writes Kartje:
The extension, Guerrero said in a conversation with the Register, was meant as a vote of confidence in Alford's direction of the basketball program, after the Bruins advanced to the Sweet 16 last season -- its first run to the NCAA tournament's second weekend since 2008."
I wanted to make sure that Steve understood that we were committed to him," Guerrero said. "Obviously, we wanted a reciprocation. Clearly, the direction the program is going is where we wanted it to go."
Let’s put aside the fact that Steve Alford’s history is an affront to UCLA basketball and it’s own proud history. Let’s – just for a moment – look at this simply through a basketball lens.
In his first season, Alford guided a team with three NBA first round draft choices (Zach LaVine, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson) and at least one other NBA player (Travis Wear) to a 28-9 record, a 12-6 conference mark (good for second place in the regular season), a win over Arizona in the conference tournament final and two wins in the NCAA tournament.
Was this a great season? Absolutely not.
Was it a good season? Maybe, maybe probably. It was okay.
I would say that given the talent on the team, the team’s final record was probably at the bottom of what any objective observers would call acceptable. It could have done better; much, much better. Had it done worse, it would have been below any reasonable set of expectations.
Simply put: This was a loaded team whose final record told us nothing about the quality of the coaching because there are probably 200 other coaches who could have gotten the same results.
Again, putting aside everything but basketball, did last year’s result mean that Alford should be fired. No, I can’t say that. 28 wins and a loss in the Sweet Sixteen in one’s first season is not a fireable offense. It gets you another year.
But in what world does it earn you a contract extension? Apparently, it does only in Dan Guerrero’s world.
I’m just trying to look at this objectively, putting aside my unpleasant visceral reaction to having Steve Alford as UCLA’s basketball coach.
Was some other school asking permission to talk to Alford, causing us to pony up to keep him in Westwood?
Was there talk of some NBA team trying to lure him to the pros?
LOL – No.
Were the years left on Steve Alford’s contract under four years, making it difficult for him to tell recruits that he’s be UCLA’s coach for the duration of their time in Westwood?
No (and from the looks of things, most players not also named Alford aren’t really planning to stay four years anyway).
Was Alford’s contract somehow so far below market value that we had reason to believe he was unhappy and somehow we wanted to make sure he was happy?
No. No. No. No. No. No.
For the life of me, I can’t make any sense of the decision to give Alford a new contract.
He wasn’t going anywhere
His first contract still had plenty of years left on it.
He was getting paid more than fairly.
His 10.4 million dollar buyout was already obscene (and it was also extended a year in the new contract).
As for the direction of the program, holy moly – what were the data points that indicated the program had any direction at all? A single season is a single data point. As far as I can tell, there was no direction one way or the other.
When you think about it, Guerrero gave Alford an extension only because UCLA beat Arizona in the Pac 12 Conference Tournament final. That single win made us conference champs. If we lose that game, then there is really nothing about last year’s team that even comes close to suggesting it accomplished anything.
All of this, to me, is simply poor fiscal management. A bad decision by a manager who apparently works without any oversight from his bosses.
What’s going to happen if this year’s team fails to win 28 games, doesn’t win the conference tournament and/or doesn’t get to the Sweet Sixteen? Won’t that be an indication of a downward direction for the program? Would that mean that Alford won’t get another extension next year, because the AD no longer likes "the direction of the program"? Remember, the number of wins predicted by most for this year's team is closer to 20 games, not 30.
I don’t know. I don’t know because the decision to give Alford an extension this year is unjustified and makes no sense. Given that, I wouldn’t bet a penny that he doesn’t get another extension next year, even if the team’s performance fails to match last year’s result.