It does not get much better than tonight, unless it is a Final Four game. UCLA vs. Kentucky. It’s the two schools with the most NCAA Basketball Champions. It’s the two schools that played one of the best games of the year when UCLA put the world on notice that it had the talent to win it all beating Kentucky at Rupp. This is it!
So what do UCLA haters like Bill "I was click bait before the term existed" Plaschke write about, the fickle UCLA fans? Yep, setting the narrative that, if we lose tonight, it is on the "fickle" fans. Of course, this is the same guy who hated Ben Howland during his Final Four runs for being "boring." Whatever, Bill. Tonight is about two people in my mind. Lonzo Ball and Steve Alford both of which have potential distractions but no excuses.
Lonzo has LaVar Ball, the Kardashian of Men's NCAA basketball. His son is great, but LaVar is a (self) promoter like no other. He will never pass up a chance to say how great his kids are. To be clear, Lonzo IS great. But, LaVar is up there with Baghdad Bob in promotion. He has taken on Stephen A. Smith, Charles Barkley, and LeBron James in a war of words . . . and that’s just this week!
Lonzo gets it. It is his Dad. LaVar loves Lonzo. Lonzo willl be focused because he has been dealing with his Dad his whole life. He has always been great on the court.
The other distraction is coach Steve Alford. Plaschke reports, as other say, he may go to Indiana. Others deny it and still others say it is a done deal.
I think it is neither. One of the mistakes of the panic hire of Steve Alford besides AD Dan Guerrero's not even doing a basic Google search of his background or other details was a failure to make sure UCLA was Alford's dream job. Since Wooden, UCLA represented the ideal career pinnacle of all the coaches, except Larry Brown. And, in UCLA's defense, Brown was correctly IDed as a brilliant basketball mind and his coach ADHD was not known at the time.
Not so with Steve Alford. He has a flipping hotel named after him in Indiana. He talks like a midwesterner and even has a haircut that looks like it was done by Floyd the Barber not a hollywood stylist.
He is an Indianan. But here is the thing. Indianans are not as stupid as UCLA to hire guys like Larry Farmer and Walt Hazzard. Great UCLA players but that does not mean they will be great coaches.
Also, Steve Alford is not stupid. He has lived a basketball life. He knows UCLA is one of the best schools in the country to coach basketball. Shoot, look at the team. All the top 7 players except one are locals. The other is his son. As LaVar says, his sons aren't playing in Indiana.
Steve is not leaving UCLA unless....
If UCLA wins it all, Indiana's doubts about Steve Alford the coach would be gone. It would be the ultimate homecoming for a favorite son. A national championship coach coming home to save Indiana.
Shoot, players on a national championship team are always overrated in the draft. I would not be surprised if UCLA loses six of the top seven players to the pros or graduation in that case. Thomas Welsh will likely be the only one left.
And that's all good. We will have won number 12. All is good. Thank you, Steve, Lonzo, TJ Leaf, etc.
On the other side, if Steve Alford loses tonight, he is the new Steve 16. Steve Alford, in his long career, will still have never made it past the Sweet 16. Indiana will be smarter than UCLA's AD and say, “thanks but no thanks.” Alford has not done his job. He had the better team at the start of the year and showed it when UCLA won at Kentucky. He will have been beaten later after a season of coaching. That will be on him, barring extraordinary circumstances .
This is not, Bill, a case of fickle fans. We love and appreciate Lonzo Ball. He is a great one. Will he finish like the other UCLA greats cutting down the nets? In part, it is up to Steve. You won't call Indiana fickle for passing on Alford if we lose tonight. UCLA fans will only be doing what fans of elite schools do, demand results over time. We don't want to be the second- best in the Pac-12 at coming up short, next to Arizona and Sean Miller.
If we win it all, Alford will leave. And that is on Dan Guerrero. He picked a coach for whom UCLA was a dream job professionally, but Indiana is a dream job professionally AND personally. That will NOT be the fault of the fans.
What if something in between happens? Who knows.
All I know is distractions be dammed. I don't want us to be done dancing.