UCLA Media Day was full of the usually platitudes and some news nuggets. Here are my top 10.
10. I still think the biggest nugget was the utter contempt Don MacLean showed to Bryce Alford as MVP in the media interviews after the official speeches. MacLean called Bryce out on defense in the strongest terms in player of the year discussion. (Rough transcript, non-verbatim):
Lamur Hurd turned to Don: Can’t believe you didn’t pick this guy. He has the best freshman point guard passing to him.
Don: Isaac Hamilton?
Hurd: Who made the most big shots?
Don: who, I don’t know?
Hurd: The other guy, c’mon on Don.
Don: Bryce Alford?
Don: Well I guess you’re saying one side of the court does not count for Player of the Year.
However, back to the official speech and interview. UCLA is a clear third in the basketball media poll. Again, the poll is meaningless, UCLA has the talent to do better. So let's do a little ying and yang of the top quotes from Media day
9. Steve Alford on why this team is so much better. As the former Intern writes over at the LA Times in an article that sums up Steve's theme: "With more depth, UCLA men's basketball is ready to push the pace and have fun"
If there's an early description of UCLA's style this season, it might be run and fun. The Bruins, ranked No. 20 in the preseason USA Today coaches poll, intend to push the pace behind Ball's passing sorcery and a glut of guards who might collectively be as good as any in the country.
Ball has faced Aaron Holiday, a crafty competitor with an NBA pedigree.
Hamilton has gone up against Bryce Alford, a shooting menace whose touch has only improved now that he's freed from having to handle the ball.
Gyorgy Goloman has faced T.J. Leaf, a freshman power forward whose range extends beyond the three-point line.
Thomas Welsh has matched up against Ike Anigbogu, a freshman forward-center who averaged a double-double in points and rebounds during an Australian exhibition tour against college and professional teams.
8. Steve Alford is sick of talking about last year. All other quotes are from this transcript.
well, we've probably talked enough about last year. I'd just as soon stop talking about it.
7. Steve did not mention defense but Isaac Hamilton did:
So that's what I tell these guys, just make sure you come play like you played in high school and talk on defense, because that's what we're going to need this year.
6. I think it is more than talk. Steve Alford did almost talk about defense, but it was in the context of bigs and quoting Bobby Knight.
Consequences is a great word that I learned from Coach Knight. If you're out of a stance, you don't block out, you don't think the game, you don't move the ball, make the extra play, there are going to be consequences.
5 . Alford did also cite the only person with the title Coach:
Same with players. Players that played under Coach Wooden versus the guys that are playing today in Westwood, that bar was raised a long time ago in Westwood, by a guy that won a bucket-load of games and a lot of championships and established something that, quite honestly, hasn't been established anywhere else in the country.
4. I remain a bit worried that Alford, unlike Wooden or Knight, may be a little too unstructured as per Isaac Hamilton.
Coach is letting us, you know, just a bunch of read and react. And for a player -- and these guys have high IQs. So for the most part, it's just playing how they did in high school and with instruction from Coach.
3. But in fairness, Steve Alford is trying to reign in the worst of those high school excesses, mainly Lonzo Ball's real deep and unnecessary threes:
Yeah, and we don't have Lonzo shooting half-court shots in the future.
2. This is a season Alford has his team and needs to deliver.
We're excited to be here. It's great being at Pac-12 Media Day and the enthusiasm around another college basketball season. We're right there with that enthusiasm. We've got a great blend of veterans like Isaac that have been through a couple Sweet Sixteens, a lot of fun times, and last year, not so fun. We've got some hungry vets with a collection of freshmen that are going to ask to do a lot for us that we're very excited about.
1. Steve Alford understands he has to deliver an elite season this year. Period.
Yeah, that's the reason I came to Westwood, to be able to coach guys like this at the level that these players are at, and have a chance to win championships both in league and nationally. So when you have a year where that doesn't happen, there is frustration. I want the fans to know there is frustration on our part just as much if not even more so.