Jeff Eisenberg goes off on Kareem for daring to criticize Alford and unreasonable UCLA fans in a new column in yahoo's dagger. I thought I would add my two cents to the great comments made by Fox and Nicog. The column has several fatal flaws.
Let's go point by point briefly.
In the long term, Abdul-Jabbar is fueling the perception that UCLA isn't as desirable a job as its location and pedigree would suggest because it lacks the resources of a Kentucky or North Carolina yet the expectations are still similar.
Let's take North Carolina first. UCLA has had as many coaches' win or coach in an NCAA title game as North Carolina. If you limit that to the last 50 years UCLA has had more coaches than North Carolina in the National title game. Stop with this argument that UCLA is not elite. In addition to the greatest coach of all time: Larry Brown, Jim Harrick, and Ben Howland all took UCLA to the largest stage.
While Eisenberg like many reporters probably thinks of location advantage in selfish terms such as LA's better food, easier to fly to, nice weather, etc. The players think of UCLA's advantages over Kentucky or Carolina in those terms (except flying) and more scouts, opportunities to play against the pros in the summer (two NBA teams and countless players who live in the area, the UCLA summer pick up games are legendary), possibility to stay local and even prettier coeds (see Kevon Looney).
The potential coaches think of the biggest advantage being the chance to recruit LA and California. Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky do not have the level of local talent that UCLA has. Every coach is jealous of that. Alford has recently been successful recruiting a top class with just one of the local LA AAU teams. Kentucky could not make a top recruiting class with the best 5 high school players in Kentucky, let alone a NCAA level team.
Alford has taken UCLA to back-to-back Sweet 16s in his first two seasons and has four Rivals top 50 recruits committed in the next two classes, yet an influential former player publicly declares him "a real disappointment?" That's the sort of thing that surely would give an Archie Miller or Tony Bennett reason to hesitate should the UCLA job someday come open again.
Hmm. Let's take Kentucky. Tubby Smith won a national title but was extremely criticized, even booed, for playing his son at point guard. He was eventually forced out of town. I guess that is why no elite coach would ever want to be at Kentucky. Oh wait.
North Carolina had a favorite son , Matt Doherty, who was a teammate of Michael Jordan as a coach. They ran him out of town in three years. I guess no elite coach would ever want to come there again. Oh wait.
I picked those two because they have some surface similarities to Steve Alford.
The last paragraph I want to focus on is this one:
UCLA has improved steadily from November to March in both Alford's two seasons and Norman Powell, Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson are among the many players who developed rapidly under his tutelage. Those are signs that Alford and his staff are doing an excellent job in skill development and in putting their players in a position to succeed.
The fact is UCLA fans are probably too nice. If North Carolina had been embarrassed on national TV like Kentucky embarrassed UCLA, the coach might not make it through the season. Remember North Carolina's Bill Gutheridge was pushed into retirement after NC made the NCAA tournament as a lowly 8th seed despite going to the Final Four. The fans could not forgive the season despite improvement. And trust me, that bad season was a lot better than UCLA's Oregon, Kentucky, and Utah destructions on TV.
Eisenberg actually makes a great point on the three players. Eisenberg makes a good case for why Howland was fired.
Howland tried to make Kyle Anderson into a wing and then a power forward. Alford played him at his natural position on offense as a point.
Howland tried to make Norman Powell into a three point shooter. Alford during the second half of last season set Norman free to attack the basket, the strongest part of his game.
Parker is tougher. Parker was recruited as a fourth string center with potential behind Josh Smith, Anthony Stover, and Travis Wear. Parker was overweight and not ready his freshman year which should have been fine for UCLA. However, Smith and Stover left but Howland still wouldn't give him a chance. Parker would have transferred if Howland was still coach and Alford coming kept Parker in the program, no doubt. But how much of it is Parker learning the game and getting in shape, and how much is Alford? Open question.
Or put another way, if Parker is the best player this season (a realistic possibility), in Alford's three years the best player is someone formally coached by Howland. Think about that.
Ms. Eisenberg what you wrote would be entirely proper if it was Washington State you were discussing. It's not. UCLA is an elite basketball school. Fans should follow Kareem's lead and not expect anything less.