Dan Guerrero is a winner right now. Why? He got what he wanted with his choice of a UCLA Basketball coach. Sound ridiculous? Well let's review. Before Steve Alford even stepped foot in Pauley Pavilion UCLA AD Dan Guerrero said of his hiring:
Athletic director Dan Guerrero said Alford is ''the perfect fit for UCLA'' because he connects with a new generation of players and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented style of play to Westwood.
One way to read this is he wanted someone who is not Ben Howland. Alford delivered on that and the above.
Alford, unlike, Howland has the players, for the most part, happy. (Putting aside the Zach Lavine issue.) This was the first season in a long time that we did not have someone fleeing the team in midseason in a flurry of transfers. No angry player tweets or the like.
Then let's look at a couple players. Tony Parker is right where I thought he would be, as a freshman. Raw, mistake prone, but showing flashes of being very good. Developing. Norman Powell is now exciting to watch. You know at least once every other game or so he is going to attack the rim in spectacular fashion and must be among the conference leaders in windmill dunks.
Alford is connecting with the players unlike Howland who lost Parker completely and tried to make Powell into something he was not. Powell is also a symbol of the up-tempo and exciting offense. UCLA ranks 11th in the country in offense. Howland, even when he in desperation loosened up, could never get UCLA to regular score 80+ points or put a totally destruction of a 107 points against Just SC.
The last part of the statement is also true. One thing I never dreamed of seeing is David Wear with 5 assists in a game and Travis Wear averaging more assists per game then he did in his first three years combined. This is not a team where the point guard holds the ball for 20+ seconds and then looks to pass. This is a team that passes or plays a team-oriented style on offense as Guerrero said it would under Alford.
Guerrero went out on a limb not waiting for a Greg Marshall or talking to a Bill Self. The choice of Alford has lived up to what Guerrero said regardless of what others think. This was his choice alone and he got what he wanted.
Which is of course the problem. Guerrero's choice was successful for what he wanted, a coach to not be Ben Howland.
That, of course, is not the correct standard and is not even completely true.
A few problems Dan.
1. This team finished worse than the last team of Ben Howland.
2. I hope I am wrong, but this team does not look likely to make the second week of the NCAA tournament. Every UCLA team should get to the sweet 16 on the talent that is attracted to UCLA alone. A good UCLA coach will take the team further; a great coach will take the team further consistently.
3. If you had to select one position where the failure to find adequate players doomed UCLA for the last five years it is the point guard position. Alford has recruited a point guard for 2015 but as of now the biggest position problem of the Howland II era is likely to be as bad or worse than the Jerime Anderson, the symbol of the Howland II era. (In fairness to Bryce, I think he will put much more effort into it than Jerime Anderson did.)
4. Los Angeles recruiting. Again, in 2015, we have a very solid SoCal recruit who was coming to UCLA as long as the coach was not named Ben Howland. However, for next season we lost the top LA area recruit in the position of great need, point guard, to just SC in Jordan McLaughlin. Alford scored a big win with Wisconsin's Kevon Looney but the number one recruiting job of any UCLA coach has to be to secure the best from the area. Losing to just SC, arguably hurts more now .
5. Alford did not avoid the bad loss. Unlike Howland who for the most part had his bad losses early in the season, Alford lost to one of the worst PAC 12 teams in recent history the last game of the season. This is important because while I am not defending Howland, good coach's teams usually improve as the season goes on and do not have these types of losses to teams as bad as this WSU team at the end of the year.
I could go on but I think this is enough. Dan Guerrero got what he wanted from a coach this season. Alford pleased his boss. However, Guerrero did not do his job as athletic director for a number of reasons but let's stick to one he said:
Guerrero had said he wanted a coach who would help boost season ticket sales. The Bruins had just a few sellouts at newly renovated Pauley Pavilion this season.
''I think the UCLA family will embrace him. I think he'll be able to hit on all cylinders,'' Guerrero said. ''He'll be able to energize the fan base in so many ways. Look at New Mexico, they get 15,000 a game, it's madness there.''
The fan base wants more than the candy of better offense Mr. Guerrero. It wants the substance of a better program. If you hired a Brad Stevens type and UCLA was in 6th place as he established a new culture, the fans would be happy as they could see that the prospect for the long-term would be good to great. A UCLA basketball coaching search should never been about finding the "Anti-Ben Howland" but rather about finding a coach that can represent the program John Wooden built.