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Lavin 2.0 Proves to Be a Downgrade

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A comparison of the coaching records of Steve Lavin and Steve Alford shows that Lavin's Bruins produced better results.

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Two years ago I compared the career records of Steve Lavin and Steve Alford. This was before Lavin and St. John's parted ways, before Alford's Bruins played their first NCAA tournament game, and before Dan Guerrero gave Alford a one-year extension as a vote of confidence.

A lot has happened since then. Lavin finished his tenure at St. John's without an NCAA Tournament win, while Alford took UCLA to back-to-back Sweet 16s. And in case you missed it, Alford guided this season's team to new depths in the conference.

My initial comparison of the coaching records of Lavin 1.0 and Lavin 2.0 favored the original "Coach" Steve. Lavin's NCAA Tournament record was far superior to Alford's in terms of both tournament winning percentage and percentage of years with a tournament appearance. Furthermore, although Alford's career winning percentage was somewhat higher, that was offset by the fact that his career strength of schedule was dramatically weaker than Lavin's. Those facts led me to the following conclusion:

[B]ased on coaching records, it's hard to argue that the new Steve (Lavin 2.0) is a better coach than the original coaching fraud, Lavin 1.0. Since neither coach has a history of success or interest in teaching basketball, and since neither coach shows any skill at game management, how is Lavin 2.0 an upgrade over Lavin 1.0?

Two years later, the comparison is even more apt. Lavin's overall winning percentage has increased very slightly while his tournament percentages have dipped slightly. On the other hand, Alford's overall winning percentage is down a bit, but his tournament percentages are somewhat better.

Lavin - Alford Career Coaching Record Comparison
Coach Seasons W L PCT SOS TA SS EE TA% TW%
Lavin 12 237 150 .612 9.38 8 5 1 66.7 57.9
Alford 21 450 246 .647 6.15 9 3 0 42.9 50.0

(SOS = composite Strength Of Schedule, TA = Tournament Appearances, SS = Sweet Sixteens, EE = Elite Eights, TA% = percent of seasons with a Tournament Appearance, TW% = Tournament Winning percentage)

As I noted the first time I made the comparison, Lavin's career strength of schedule (SOS) remains dramatically stronger than Alford's, which makes a meaningful comparison of overall winning percentage challenging. However, the comparison is much more enlightening if we eliminate the seasons that Alford spent coaching at mid-majors.

Lavin - Alford "High Major" Career Coaching Record Comparison
Coach Seasons W L PCT SOS TA SS EE TA% TW%
Lavin 12 237 150 .612 9.4 8 5 1 66.7 57.9
Alford 11 217 146 .598 8.3 5 2 0 45.5 50.0


Note that by removing Alford's seasons coaching Missouri State (SOS = 3.56) and New Mexico (SOS = 4.00), his strength of schedule at Iowa State and UCLA combined (approximately 8.3) is closer to Lavin's career strength of schedule. However, by taking away the seasons in which Alford racked up big victory totals from a menu of cupcakes, Alford's career winning percentage drops below Lavin's. In fact, as this comparison shows, Steve Alford's coaching record at "high majors" is in every way inferior to Steve Lavin's record.

If that's not bad enough, consider the first three seasons of both Lavin and Alford at UCLA. In nearly every single category, the comparison favors Lavin 1.0.

Lavin - Alford First Three Seasons at UCLA Comparison
Coach Season Record PCT SOS Conference Place NCAA
Lavin 1996-97 24-8 .750 10.29 15-3 1st 3-1
Alford 2013-14 28-9 .757 7.62 12-6 2nd 2-1

Coach Season Record PCT SOS Conference Place NCAA
Lavin 1997-98 24-9 .727 11.01 12-6 3rd 2-1
Alford 2014-15 22-14 .611 8.27 11-7 4th 2-1

Coach Season Record PCT SOS Conference Place NCAA
Lavin 1998-99 22-9 .710 8.84 12-6 3rd 0-1
Alford 2015-16 15-17 .469 10.09 6-12 10th No

Worse yet is that a comparison of Alford's first three seasons at UCLA with Lavin's final three seasons at UCLA are eerily similar. Before you compare the numbers, please remember that UCLA basketball was in serious decline by 2000-01, Lavin's fifth season in charge of the program. Nevertheless, in his final three seasons as UCLA's basketball coach, Lavin's Bruins were producing results similar to Alford's Bruins.

Lavin - Alford Most Recent Three Seasons at UCLA Comparison
Coach Season Record PCT SOS Conference Place NCAA
Lavin 2000-01 23-9 .719 12.06 14-4 3rd 2-1
Alford 2013-14 28-9 .757 7.62 12-6 2nd 2-1

Coach Season Record PCT SOS Conference Place NCAA
Lavin 2001-02 21-12 .636 10.77 11-7 6th 2-1
Alford 2014-15 22-14 .611 8.27 11-7 4th 2-1

Coach Season Record PCT SOS Conference Place NCAA
Lavin 2002-03 10-19 .345 9.74 6-12 6th No
Alford 2015-16 15-17 .469 10.09 6-12 10th No


One of the things that I find particularly interesting about this comparison is that, generally speaking, Lavin's teams played a significantly tougher schedule than Alford's teams. I can't say that Lavin didn't ever whine about the difficulty of the Bruins' schedule and that he didn't periodically offer it as an excuse, but I think it's fair to say that the frequency with which Steve Alford has used the "tough schedule" excuse surpasses even Lavin's ability to explain away failure.

Two years after my initial analysis, my conclusion remains essentially the same: based on results, Lavin 2.0 cannot be considered an upgrade on Lavin 1.0. In fact, when you take into account the exorbitant cost of Lavin 2.0, there's no way to justify keeping it in service. Lavin 1.0 was a disaster. Unfortunately, the very expensive sequel is definitely not an improvement.

Go BRUINS!

#FireAlford