Following Saturday’s loss to Ohio State, Steve Alford made the Steve Alfordiest postgame comment ever. He said:
There’s no issue with that with me. I just do my job as well as I possibly can and that’s what I do every day. I’m a man of God. So, I’ve got an audience of one and I show up every day, work as hard as I can for my guys and, at the end of the day, if I know that I’ve prepared and worked hard, then that’s what matters to me.
Obviously, in that comment, the “audience of one” that Alford is referring to is God. We could dissect this comment and certainly discuss whether it’s appropriate for a coach at a public university to make a statement like that, but, frankly, that’s not what I want to discuss right now. Steve Alford is welcome to worship the religion of his choosing, after all.
That isn’t to say, however, that Alford’s comment about having an “audience of one” was incorrect. It wasn’t. He is just mistaken as to whom that “audience of one” is.
Based on the context of his quote, it’s implied that Alford believes his “audience of one” is God.
At least over the next few months, Alford’s “audience of one” is not God, or any other higher power for that matter.
It is UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero.
That’s because it is Dan Guerrero who will make the decision regarding whether or not Alford continues to be employed by the UCLA Bruins as the Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach or, frankly, in any other capacity.
Historically, Guerrero has shown a clear preference to wait until the end of a team’s season to assess whether a coach should be retained or not.
If Dan Guerrero decides to continue employing Steve Alford, no amount of airplanes, “Fire Alford” banners, empty seats at Pauley Pavilion, or angry emails or angry phone calls to the Morgan Center will make a difference. Ultimately, it comes down to what Dan Guerrero decides to do.
What Guerrero will choose to do is anyone’s guess. On one hand, Guerrero made a bold decision to fire Jim Mora when he did in order to land Chip Kelly. On the other hand, Guerrero is also the same person who has allowed Jorge Salcedo to remain as head coach of the once-proud UCLA men’s soccer team after the team’s first losing season since 1952. He is the same person who seems to have opted for firing the assistant coaches of UCLA women’s volleyball coach Michael Sealy after the first losing season in program history, rather than firing him.
As of today, Dan Guerrero’s contract, which most assume to be his final contract, has just 372 days remaining. It expires on December 31, 2019. The assumption that he plans to retire soon comes from the fact that Guerrero’s previous contracts all ended in the Spring and this one ends at the end of the calendar year in which UCLA will mark the centennial of its 1919 founding.
To be sure, I actually expect Guerrero to announce his plans to retire sometime in the coming year, probably in the fall, and I actually think that Guerrero could stick around until the 2019-2020 school year ends on June 30, 2020. So, it’s very possible that he could be around for at least another year and a half.
But, I digress.
The topic of Dan Guerrero and his eventual replacement, which is also affected by the status of UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, who may also be on the verge of retirement himself, is the topic of another article or articles.
One of the barriers to firing Alford in the past has been the buyout it would have cost UCLA. At one point, it was in excess of $10 million. Because Guerrero has allowed Alford to remain as UCLA’s head coach until now, Alford’s buyout has dropped to just $3.6 million. As a matter of contrast, Jim Mora’s buyout when he was fired in November 2017 was $12 million.
With the buyout more manageable, the time has never been better for Guerrero to decide that he must act to fix UCLA basketball. When he made the decision to fire Mora, Guerrero realized that his legacy as UCLA Athletic Director depended on it.
His legacy as UCLA Athletic Director may depend more on fixing the basketball program. While other blueblood basketball programs like Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas continue to perform at elite levels year after year, only UCLA continuously underperforms.
A lot of fans are frequently content saying, “Alford’s got a great recruiting class! We need to keep him!” Well, a great recruiting class is certainly important, but what’s more important is what a coach does with the recruiting class. As Jim Mora so frequently demonstrated, having a top-rated recruiting class doesn’t guarantee success.
Only one of Alford’s recruiting classes has proven capable of achieving an acceptable level of success. That was the Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf class, but even that class underperformed under Alford by crashing and burning in the Sweet 16.
One of our frequent Facebook commenters, who may be one of the few people left still excited about this season’s team, wrote recently “Players play. Coaches coach.” Well, that’s true. But if a coach doesn’t develop an adequate plan for success with his players, the players cannot succeed because you cannot beat a plan with no plan or a bad plan.
There is absolutely no doubt remaining that Alford needs to be held accountable for his failure to plan appropriately.
It is time for Steve Alford’s real audience of one, Dan Guerrero, to do his job and set the UCLA basketball program back on the path to respectability.
The only question remaining is: Will Director Guerrero give Bruin basketball fans the gift of an interim coach for Christmas by firing Alford before the Liberty game and the start of Pac-12 play or will Director Guerrero force Bruin fans to wait for another Bruin-less March Madness to do so?
I understand why he usually chooses to wait for a coach to have an entire body of work from a complete season, but the fact is that a non-conference season without a signature win, plus the rest of Alford’s tenure, has, in fact, given enough proof that Alford capable of leading UCLA to a Pac-12 title or to an Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
I’m not saying an interim coach can do either of those things at this point because, based on the way the team has played to this point, I’m not convinced that either is possible. But, I have absolutely no doubt that Steve Alford cannot and that’s why Dan Guerrero should fire Steve Alford this afternoon.
Dan, for the love of UCLA basketball, please fire Steve Alford today.