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Part 2- Steve Alford's Coaching of #Daddyball

Also, in the comments please only comment on Alford's coaching of offense. Other factors such as character and recruiting are as important if not more for a coach but today I want to hear people's thought on the offense.

Bryce should never be doing this with Kyle in the game.
Bryce should never be doing this with Kyle in the game.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

{Note this was drafted before Steve Alford's statement yesterday.]

Was Don McCafferty a better coach than Don Shula?  Never heard of McCafferty?  In 1971, McCafferty did something Don Shula had never done to that point, in fact arguably Don Shula "choked".  McCafferty was the head coach of the Super Bowl V Champion Colts, the very Colt team that had lost in one of the biggest sports upsets of all time in Super Bowl III to the upstart New York Jets.

Why do I bring this up?  Does anyone think McCaffery is a better coach than hall of famer Don Shula?  Or how is this for a more UCLA example:  Who has the best coach in his first year at UCLA John Wooden, Jim Harrick, Ben Howland or Steve Lavin?  If you go by record it is Lavin who like McCaffery took a team trained by another coach far.  Remember Harrick like Shula had choked previously in the playoffs.  (Of course Harrick had won it all two years before but this is a blog not a history paper, so cut me some slack.)

Lavin and McCafferty best traits were they were easy going guys and "player's coaches."

Why do I bring this up?  Sean Farnham made a good point that Kyle Anderson is a point guard not a point forward. H But what Kyle does so beautiful is he often advances the ball with a pass.  Kyle does not lead a break with a drive and dish but with a rebound and long pass.

Ben Howland couldn't let go enough to embrace a 6"9" point guard.  Ben could not see that while Kyle driving to the hoop in the set offense is not poetry in motion; it is incredibly effective.  For a basketball junkie like me it is so much fun to watch Kyle.

Thus, Alford has lived up to one thing that Guerrero said he would.  If you take the blinders off this UCLA team at times can be fun to watch on offense.  As Bill Walton points out the players are free to create instead of looking to the bench every play.

Steve Alford to his credit has embraced Kyle as a point guard and Kyle is the leading candidate for player of the year in the conference.

Which makes the biggest problem more ironic:  Steve Alford does not embrace Kyle enough.

Let's look at the last two games for why this is so important.  UC Berkeley and their coach Mike Montgomery had no answer for Kyle Anderson and the Wears.  Yes, I realize Jordan Adams had the biggest game against Berkeley but it was set up by Kyle and the Wears.

In the first game David Wear took UC Berkeley apart for a career high as Monty obviously decided to see if David could beat them.  So next time Berkeley played David honest and he went 1-3 which left Jordan go off.  UC Berkeley's top priorities in both games was to stop Kyle and they sent Justin Cobbs, Tyrone Wallace and even Richard Solomon to deal with him, none could.  The Wears and Kyle taking Solomon, a very good PAC 12 big away from the basket was particularly helpful.  Without their dominant inside player guarding the rim, Berkeley was dead.  At the end of the day Berkeley was a bad matchup for UCLA who had better players and to his credit Alford coached the right way on offense and the defensive plan worked.

Then there is the Stanford game.  I detailed the defensive problems yesterday but I really think the game was still winnable even with those issues and even not trying anything.  There were two offensive reasons UCLA lost this game.

UCLA was tied 18-18 and Kyle had had 5 assists in the first 8 minutes.  Yes, Chasson Randle was already burning up UCLA with 3 three pointers but UCLA was tied.  What changed was not that Randle or Stanford suddenly got hot, it was Steve Alford gave the game away.  He did the one thing that Berkeley tried and failed to do and he did for no reason, he took the ball out of Kyle's hands.

He made Bryce the primary ball handler.  Kyle Anderson and Bryce Alford had zero assists for the rest of the half and UCLA went over 5 minutes without a basket. Stanford made a 12-0 run.  That was the biggest reason UCLA lost the game.  What UC Berkely tried three different ways to do, Steve Alford did for Stanford.

The Utah game was eerily similar.  Utah was hitting threes like mad (9 of their 17 points) and the score was 18-17 UCLA when Kyle Anderson this time sat down for a little over 2 minutes.  When Kyle came back In the Utah game, it was 28-18 Utah lead.  During this 11-0 (actually 13-0 as Utah scored once more after Kyle came back) run Bryce was the point guard.  Again that was arguably the game.

The Oregon State game was a combination of the two.  The most alarming stat is 2.  That is the number of assists Kyle had for a season low.  Bryce Alford was statistically playing a good road game as he hit 3-5 from three but the bigger problem was Bryce was running the offense not Kyle.  Kyle can play the four on defense but UCLA is only an elite offense when Kyle is the one on offense.

This team could never be great because Kyle has to rest and the offense is going to suffer when he is out.  But knowing this there are things you can do to protect Kyle.  Besides the obvious here are two things that frustrate me about Steve Alford use of Kyle:

  • Early the season and again against Stanford Kyle was the top of the press. This forces Kyle to chase and to have to run back, two ways to needless expand energy of the team's MVP.
  • When Kyle is the four he takes the ball out after a made basket. Doesn't sound like a big deal but it makes Kyle have to run down the court versus jog down with everyone else in the set offense. Kyle starts the offensive set behind as a four.

Kyle is the team and conference MVP:  you don't take the ball out of his hands on offense and you do whatever you can to keep him fresh.

Now to the other problems on offense.

Who is the better three shooter Bryce Alford or Norman Powell?  Bryce of course he has a nice stroke and shooting 40% to Norman's 29%.

Who is 8-14 and has hit at least one three in the last five games?  Norman Powell.  Norman has out shot Bryce the last five games from three.  To be clear I am not saying Norman Powell would beat Bryce in a three point shooting contest.  However, if Norman is close to Bryce as a three shooter as he has been recently, he is so much better at everything else he has to play over Bryce.  Yet in the clutch in the Stanford game Steve was offense-defense substituting Bryce for Norman.

Norman Powell is the second best player on this team.  And to be fair, Steve Alford recognized his talent and unlike Howland who tried to make Norman a set shooter, Alford has turned him loose.  Powell is attacking the rim and running the court.  Powell is thriving.

But like Kyle to a lesser extent, Bryce and Powell should never be in competition.  Powell needs the minutes and needs to be on the court.  It was shameful to be offense-defense substituting Bryce for Powell or for Bryce to ever take time away from Powell.

Which brings me to the next point?  The bigs or Bryce?  In the three bad losses Bryce played more minutes than all three bigs against Stanford and Oregon State and more minutes than Norman in the Utah game.  Contrast that with the good road wins (Colorado, Oregon and UC Berkeley), Norman Powell played more minutes each game and two of the three bigs played more minutes each time.

Putting aside Utah for a second, let's talk about the other games.  . So at times it comes down to not just the obvious choice of Bryce or Norman Powell but a choice between Bryce, Tony, Travis and David.  One of the latter three has to play but do two?  Do you want Kyle on the floor as a four on defense which leaves one spot for Travis, Tony and David or as a three on defense which leaves two spots?

This brings us to the most obvious offensive difference in the Stanford win and loss.  The second biggest problem in the Stanford game after taking the ball out of Kyle's hand was the use or non-use of Tony Parker.  Some people say Tony is inconsistent or unpredictable.  I see that point but I also think Tony has shown he is capable of dominating lesser competition.  And Tony destroyed Stanford for 22 points at Pauley.  Stanford has four good players and a terrible Center to start the game.  Their Centers (Nastic, Gage and Verhoven) can cover a Wear because they don't post up.  Their Centers are worthless against post up guy like Tony.  Yet Bryce played 25 to Tony's 18 minutes at Maples.  At Pauley the number was Parker 28 Bryce 21.  And yes those minutes overlap because it comes down to where to play Kyle.

Tony was 9-14 in the win and 6-8 in the loss compared to Bryce's combined 4-13.

It is not always that obvious but what is obvious is Steve Alford has a blind spot on Bryce.  It is not just in playing him too much but in how he plays him.

It is probably too late know to make someone else the backup point.  I think a case should be made that Bryce should only play when Kyle is out.  However, even if Bryce needs to play with Kyle there should never be a time when Bryce is point guard with Kyle in.  Bring the ball up occasionally (as can Norman or Jordan); but let Kyle run the team.

I didn't want this to be a rant against Bryce.  I am one if the jersey said Smith on his back would probably like the kid's enthusiasm and three shooting but even if it said Smith I would be concerned and mad at the favoritism.

Steve Alford has done a good job not being Ben Howland and turning Kyle Anderson and Norman Powell loose to the best of their abilities, at least some of the time.  His basketball offense is more fun to watch as a result and the players seem to be enjoying it.  But his blind spot on his son is killing the team's chance to be more than good on offense and to go to that next level which has helped lose all six chances to take them to the next level.

Putting aside Bryce for a second.  You want to win or lose games with your best players.  Taking the ball out of their hands or taking them out of the game for anyone is not good.  Not even Steve can argue that Bryce is better than Kyle or Norman.  He needs to adjust accordingly.

While the defense will always be limited by lack of a dominant inside player, the offense can be special.  It is up to Alford to let it be special for the entire game not just parts.

While Alford's offense this season with Howland players is better or at least more "fun" than Howland's it does not mean he is a better bench coach.    As Tydides said in response to a comment that Alford is better than Howland: "you mean he is going to win a National Championship?"  Howland took UCLA to a national championship game and this year might be the best Alford UCLA team because, as of right now, Bryce is the point guard next year.

Also, in the comments please only comment on Alford's coaching of offense.  Other factors such as character and recruiting are as important if not more for a coach but today I want to hear people's thought on the offense.