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ESPN and Bruins Nation Agree: Win or Bust for Alford

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, are you listening? No one thinks Alford can cut it in the big time.

UCLA Introduces Steve Alford
Dan needs to be doing this again in March or April of 2019
Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

ESPN wrote the best blurb it has written in years on UCLA basketball. The money paragraph, after mentioning the lack of success despite the good recruiting, is as follows (emphasis added):

Mixing that group with arguably the conference’s best crop of returning talent makes the Bruins, on paper, the favorite in the Pac-12. If Alford can’t deliver with this team -- taking into account Guerrero’s decision to fire Howland -- it’s hard to imagine him remaining in Westwood beyond this season. And to deliver, in this case, would be to win the Pac-12 and advance past the Sweet 16.

Thank you, ESPN Staff Writer Kyle Bonagura. You have articulated the standard that Bruins Nation has been stating for years. I am not going to criticize ESPN for being a Johnny-come- lately. It may have taken a while, but they get it. Hey it is the Eastern Sports Network, after all. (Actually the E stands for Entertainment but we all know how biased ESPN is toward the East.)

This also gives rest to ANY argument that Bruins fan are irrational or too demanding. Alford has to win in the regular season and post season or he must be gone.

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, are you reading this? Please understand Dan, no one is going to criticize you for firing Alford if he fails this year. No one is going to say you caved to the fan base or that UCLA fans are still expecting John Wooden-like results. Dan, you need to start thinking of coaches now. You need to be prepared and no panic hires if the 2019 version of Brad Stevens turns you down (as he did in 2013) when you went without thought to Alford. Form a committee or hire a consultant. But, be a boy scout, be prepared.

The article details how you fired Howland after winning the Pac-12 regular season title (something Alford has never done) and losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. ESPN and others were more critical of that firing, pointing out what Howland had accomplished previously. In fairness to ESPN, from afar that was a relative tough fire, but when you looked at the chaos of Reeves Nelson, the burnt recruiting bridges, and the fact Howland had lost his way, it was easy.

But, not as easy as this one. Alford has not gone to a Final Four. He has not had a team dominate the West like Howland. Say it, Dan! This year is: “Win or Bust.”

Now, Alford detractors here may be scared. As the article details “UCLA has a Wealth of Talent” and the Pac-12 is really down. You may think Alford could actually win. As the article points out, last year, the Pac-12 was awful, too, and Alford did not win it. I’ll add Alford had Lonzo Ball, a great college player, and he did not win it. Alford is not going to win the Pac-12 and go beyond the sweet 16.

The real worry isn’t Alford. It’s Dan. Is the career bureaucrat more worried about his retirement? Will he be too lazy taking UCLA-organized trips to Italy sipping wine to do the work of finding and signing a coach? That does worry me. But, Dan’s excuses are gone. This is not the first ESPN article like this. Firing Howland was much harder. This is easy, Dan.

And, Dan, another story happened this week that shows how easy it is to find a coach. But, before I get to that, even after this season, not all the “wealth of talent” will leave. If you pull the trigger and fire Alford, Dan, it will be easy to get a new coach to come to a program with a lot of raw talent.

Oh, and that other article points out an incredible advantage only UCLA has (emphasis added):

Oh, and Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard in there, having all just worked out together. . . .

I could try to explain that the NBA’s elite players work out together some pretty much every summer, and that the UCLA run is constantly stacked. I could try to tell you this isn’t wildly out of the ordinary.

The “UCLA run” that featured those three has one rule: a UCLA player must be in it. So, hey, new coach you get a team with a “wealth of talent” and you can tell the new kids they get to run in the summer with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard. And, to be clear, to the future coach, there is NO other school in the country that can offer that to recruits.

Dan, you need to start the process for a new coach now! You better be ready to pull the trigger at the end of the season. All excuses are gone. Everyone agrees Alford does not cut it. Maybe a better way to say it is, if you don’t fire him, we will be mad at you instead of Alford!.

Go Bruins!