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UCLA Basketball: How Much Longer Can Bruin Fans Trust Steve Alford?

Alford’s solution to UCLA basketball’s problems is “trust.”

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day
Alford can identify problems correctly, but not sure he can fix them
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA Bruins head coach Steve Alford held his weekly press conference today and his latest ponitification shows why he is a mediocre coach. He can see the problems the team has, but his “solution” to get rid of it is “trust.” He uses the word “trust” at least 8 times during the interview. Alford said:

Well, it’s a trust. I think one of it’s trust, especially offensively, when we’re looking at it on from an offensive standpoint. It’s building that trust that, across the board of the 9 to 10 guys that were playing, they trust one another, regardless of the time, regardless of the score, regardless of first half [versus] second half and I think that’s just experience of playing with each other. (emphasis added)

I keep thinking of the Princess Bride and this scene:

Trust is not the issue. This is a very deep team. How about a different word, maybe “bench”? How about playing the guys who give the most effort and benching the guys who don’t try on defense? Alford is right on transition. The Bruins defense on transition is atrocious. He spoke about how some guys aren’t giving enough effort getting back on defense. Alford explained:

And, then, some guys understanding that how you run this way it’s not downhill [when the team is on offense] and uphill that way [when the team is on defense]. The floor’s level. So it’s the effort that you give coming to this end has to be the same going to the other end.

That is an accurate description and a good analogy. So, Steve, just play the guys who view the court as level. Play the effort guys such as David Singleton, Chris Smith, Moses Brown, Jalen Hill, Cody Riley, and Jules Bernard. Although, in fairness, Jules Bernard fails miserably on the next problem that Alford identified and that’s ball movement:

[T]hen offensively, just keeping the ball moving. We have periods of that, but we are not putting together 40 minutes of the ball moving like we like to see it move it. It needs to touch hands. It needs to touch different sides of the court. It needs to go inside out and we’re all learning. It’s a learning curve. Now, with Cody and, then obviously ,Moses, [and Jalen] Hill, we’ve got some size inside, but we’ve got to get that offense going, not just side-to-side with ball handling. It’s got to go in and out and that’ll open up some more threes for us.

Jalen Hill is a pass-first big guy. David Singleton is shooting 62% because he passes first and only takes good shots. Chris Smith sometimes shoots a bit out of his range, but also passes his share. This is not a season where there are no other options. Instead of talking about trust and yelling at his players, maybe he could try benching them or giving them a quick hook.

Jaylen Hands has had moments of really good basketball, like the first half against North Carolina on offense and the first half against Presbyterian on defense. Bench him for Singleton if he does not show that effort against the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors both ways. Alford did this some in the first three games.

Kris Wilkes and Prince Ali have both gone one on three or four too often this season. Wilkes is so good that he can make that work against bad teams, but still bench him instantly for either Bernard or Smith if he is lollygagging on defense. Or, in Steve Alford terms, trust but verify. Tell him you trust him to put out effort on defense but, if he doesn’t, he’ll be benched. Wilkes needs this for the NBA as well.

Personally, I would bench Ali right now. Ali has almost as many turnovers as assists and is shooting 37% and only 26% from three. I know he is a veteran but, quite frankly, David Singleton looks more poised.

The bottom line is: there are so many good options for this team that there is no excuse for the problems of bad defense and a lack of consistent effort. I love the potential for this team, but I don’t trust Steve Alford to take full advantage of it. That, Steve, is how you use the word “trust” correctly.

Here’s the video of Alford’s complete interview, courtesy of Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online.

Kris Wilkes, Jaylen Hands and Cody Riley were also interviewed today. Thanks to UCLA Athletics for sharing this video of their interviews.