Steve Alford met with the media yesterday (a day early this week) and answered questions about two tough losses and their upcoming road trip. While he may have “answered” these questions, I have to preface this article with the fact that some of what he said was nothing but coachspeak. While I try not to judge too much in these press conferences and just relay the facts, I found it a little more difficult this time. You’ll see why.
Alford was first asked about Lonzo Ball’s comment that some of the guys on the team had “gone split ways” during their match up against Southern Cal, which was part of a discussion at a players-only meeting following the loss. Alford said he didn’t hear anything about that and the loss was mainly due to turnovers and poor play. They didn’t attack the zone and took ill-advised shots which hurt their defense (he said they were actually a little better on defense versus Southern Cal) and both the team and individuals didn’t play well.
OK, I have to stop here. I know not many coaches want to admit that there is a split in their team and broadcasting that fact in a press conference may not be a good idea, but don’t act like you don’t have a clue. You knew the team had a meeting and although you may not know details of what was said, at least, address the fact in a diplomatic or professional matter.
Moving on. Alford said, “February sets up March.” Since last February was so bad, they literally had “zero March.” So, the idea is to get things going again and move in a positive direction. He was then asked about playing more zone defense and making it more of a point of emphasis and he pointed out that, against Southern Cal, they played the most zone defense they had all year “and it didn’t work.” Well, maybe when you’re down and doing it out of desperation and you don’t really practice it. But I digress. He instead suggested they should have played more bigs and playing four guards for so many minutes was more in response to being behind and trying to keep up with Southern Cal, as opposed to making them change their style of play to match us. Southern Cal should ALWAYS have to match us.
The media point blank asked Alford about whether T.J. and Lonzo have hit a “freshman wall.” Alford said they haven’t and their recent slump (my word, not his) is more a result of playing a “long[er] season.” He was quick to point out that in college basketball overall, there were more losses in the top 10 last week than there had been all year. So, a slump in response to adjusting to college ball is not a “freshman wall.” OK.
Alford was asked towards the end about his knowledge of Coach growing up in Indiana, and whether he had much of a concept of UCLA and their style as a kid. Alford went to school in Martinsville and was going to the gym that Coach played in when he was in first through fourth grade and knew all about his accomplishments getting into the Hall of Fame as both a coach and a player. So I’m thinking we’re off to a good start. But then he goes off on a Bobby Knight tangent (Knight coached the undefeated team that won the national championship the year after coach won his last in 1975). Granted, he points out that technology was extremely limited and he wasn’t watching UCLA games as a kid, but, for Pete’s sake man, you’ve inherited Coach’s job. Give the man some props as the greatest Coach of all time. Yes, it was Indiana and that’s where Knight coached, but you’re at UCLA and you need to acknowledge Coach’s legacy.
Finally, another elephant walks in the room. We haven’t won at Wazzu in the last few years and Alford just said it was due to poor play. Well, it’s time to get it together and play some defense so this February sets up this March much better than the last.
Here is the full video, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is Bryce Alford, T.J. Leaf, and Isaac Hamilton, with Bryce’s take on Lonzo’s comments, courtesy of UCLA Athletics: