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UCLA Basketball: Coaches and Catalysts

Alford is making the players happy with his choices for assistant coaches, will he make the fan's happy with the results?

Shabazz is turning over the role of #1 option on offense to Jordan Adams.  Will Adams be ready?
Shabazz is turning over the role of #1 option on offense to Jordan Adams. Will Adams be ready?
Stephen Dunn

As we have been writing there are opportunities galore for Coach Alford. But in our continuing look at what could be for Coach Alford we take a look at another positive over Howland and a less obvious concern.

While it is way too early to make too many judgments on Alford, it does seem safe to say that he is not the most media savvy. Inside UCLA's Jack Wang has an interesting quote in response to a question on Alford:

During my relatively brief sit-down with him, he came off as a generic college coach. Friendly enough, but tended to speak in cliches. His assistants were more interesting, but I also had much more time with them.

Foremost of those exciting assistants is Ed Schillling. Schilling is the real deal and a very great addition to a basketball staff. More importantly, Schilling has really excited the players. From a Scout interview a few weeks back

Q: , , , you know, in talking with some of the players, and it's been trickling out on Twitter and whatever... they've been just overwhelmed by how great the workouts have been.

ES: oh, no, they're kind. They've been incredibly receptive, they've worked extremely hard, and it's... I've, I'm fortunately... I've had a relationship prior to coming here was about four of them. The Wear twins, with Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, I've known through adidas Nations so I had some... you know, we had a relationship coming in. I think that helped. And then they've just

Although it is WAY too early, it is nice to hear Schilling is making practice fun again after the drudgery of the Howland years. Howland's practices were boot camp. A necessary step if you were going to make it but they would never be described as fun. Further, Howland the control freak would be unlikely to turn practice, any practice, over to assistant coaches and if he did you could bet he would script out every detail.

CBS wrote a story on UCLA and has these paragraphs on the other assistant coaches:

Duane Broussard. Broussard worked at New Mexico for the last five of Alford's 10 seasons there, the first three as the operations guys and the last two as an assistant coach. He was previously an assistant for six seasons at Bradley. He will provide some stability and familiarity for Alford on the coaching staff.

David Grace. Grace will spearhead the effort to keep the West Coast's best talent at home in Westwood. He comes to UCLA after spending five seasons at Oregon State, where he did a solid job of getting quality prospects from southern California and other locales. Grace has ties to various AAU programs, especially the Los Angeles-based Compton Magic. He has coached at different levels, including high school, AAU and then at Sacramento State and San Francisco.

The CBS article concludes:

I think it's going to be hard for Alford not to succeed at UCLA.

Which brings us to the counter to the "succeeding Alford" and the top 25 ranked UCLA, ESPN's Andy Katz came up with an interesting rebuttal to Jason King's ranking of UCLA:

UCLA Bruins (My pick -- unranked; Jason's -- No. 24): The Bruins should be a Pac-12 contender under new coach Steve Alford, but we cannot underestimate the loss of point guard Larry Drew II. He could have been the MVP of the Pac-12 for leading the Bruins to the regular-season title. Not having Shabazz Muhammadmay not hurt as much, but he did draw plenty of attention last season. It will be important for the Bruins to find a catalyst early who can run the team.

The point guard discussion will be endless and somewhat pointless until Coach Alford starts making decision on it. (Not that it is not fun to talk about.)

While I think losing Shabazz is addition by subtraction on defense, there may be something to Katz's point on Shabazz the catalyst. A key part may be what Shabazz did for Adams. Shabazz was the number one option and a force on offense. Adams never was guarded by the other team's best defender and some games (like his final game against Arizona) he was guarded by the worst defender as Arizona focused on taking away Shabazz and Larry Drew II. Remember also Jordan Adams scoring average was #8 in the conference for the season with 15.3 points a game but only 13.4 in conference games for #16 in the conference. In other words against the tougher conference competition Jordan struggled at times. Unlike Shabazz or Drew, Adams shot just 30% from three, a worse percentage than both Wears.

While Adams was certainly a more complete player and a team player, there are some legitimate questions of whether he is ready to step up to be the offensive catalyst. I understand and agree with all those who fell in love with Adams' game last year, but is he ready to step up to be "the man" on offense as CBS proclaims him to be?

Which brings me back to Katz's post, UCLA must be a PAC 12 contender under Alford. Alford has to do more than just show up and Coach speak to make it work. Adams is a great player to have on the team but he is going to need help scoring and besides Travis Wear there is not a proven scorer on the team. Norman Powell and Zach LaVine have potential but regardless Alford has to make it work.

Go Bruins.