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UCLA Men’s Basketball: Murry Bartow Focuses on Improving the Bruins

Bartow will be leading UCLA when the Bruins open Pac-12 play tomorrow against Stanford.

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 07 South Florida at SMU
Murry Bartow was named interim head coach of UCLA men’s basketball on Monday when the school announced that Steve Alford had been fired.
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the New Year’s holidays concluded, UCLA Bruins interim coach Murry Bartow met with the media for the first time since he was named interim head coach on Monday.

After some necessary platitudes, Bartow explained how he sees the situation at hand. Bartow said:

We’ve got a good group of guys. We’ve got a lot of season left and the guys have practiced incredibly hard the last two days. A lot of the excitement with practice and, obviously, we’ve got a big game tomorrow night against Stanford. The Pac-12, we think, is wide open. We think we’ve got some talent. We obviously have not played the way any of us wanted to play, but, hopefully, we can turn things and we’ll see. But that’ll start tomorrow night against Stanford.

Bartow explained that the remaining coaches on the staff are going to do everything they can to make the team better. While he didn’t go into specifics about how things will be different, it does sound like the learning atmosphere will no doubt be improved for the players. Bartow said:

It comes down to the players. Tyus, Duane and I...we’re just gonna pour every ounce of energy we’ve got into the players, in terms of individual development, team development, offensively, defensively and we’re just going to pour...again...24/ much energy as we’ve try to improve each player and improve the team. We think we’ve got good talent and good guys that are willing to learn and get better again.

Bartow was asked if he planned to make changes to UCLA’s offense. From the sounds of things, It doesn’t sound like Bartow is planning major changes to the offense. It does sound like he plans to focus on the fundamentals and the execution of those fundamentals. He said:

Will there be tweaks? Sure. Sure. Every head coach is different. I’ve been a head coach for 18...19 years. So, you know, there may be a tweak here...a tweak there. But, fundamentally, we’ve got to do some things better. I don’t think it’s the stuff we were running. I mean it’s all sound things that we’re running, but we’ve obviously got to dribble it better, pass it better, make better decisions, shoot it better, make shots, make free-throws. So I don’t think it’s necessarily the stuff we’re running as much as we’ve just got to execute some things a little bit better.

But, it’s not necessarily just a matter of the team’s execution of fundamentals. It could, of course, come down to how the team adjusts to Bartow’s style of coaching compared to Alford’s style. If the players react better to Bartow’s style of coaching, the execution of the fundamentals may very well take care of itself quickly.

It sounds as though Bartow seems to think the team has a little bit of a confidence problem while, at the same time, he seems to think they can regain it pretty quickly with a pair of wins this weekend. He explained:

Again, I don’t think it has anything to do with really what we’re running, but, again, we’ll tweak something here or there, but we’ve just got to execute better. Confidence goes down when turnovers go up and you’re not scoring the ball. Obviously, your confidence as a team is going to drop and go down, but we’ve got pretty...I think...overall, guys that know they’re good. We’ve got talent some talented guys and a couple wins here on Thursday and Saturday will all the sudden again...if we could get a couple wins, we’d be a pretty confident group again pretty quick. So, we can rekindle that pretty quickly.

After listening to just one press conference with Bartow, the difference between Alford and Bartow cannot be more dramatic. Gone is the Alford arrogance. The whole attitude and disdain that Alford would have whenever he was challenged. You know what I’m talking about. It was that “I’m Mr. Indiana Basketball. I won a national championship under Bobby Knight. I’ve been coaching this game for over 20 years. I’ve forgotten more about the game of basketball than you will ever know. Who the heck are you to question me about that?” Bartow sounds more like someone more inclined to help teach and grow the players on the team.

And, that might be exactly what these guys need right now.

Here’s the full video of Bartow’s interview, courtesy of Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online.

Kris Wilkes and Prince Ali also met with the media today. Interestingly, Ali and Wilkes seemed to tell a different story about Steve Alford’s departure. Ali says that Alford met with the team on Monday morning, but Wilkes indicated that he had only communicated with him via text. It’s possible Wilkes might have missed the meeting, but it just seemed odd.

Neither player seemed overly concerned about the change.

The video of both players’ interviews is courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

The Bruins host the Cardinal tomorrow night at Pauley Pavilion at 8 pm PT.

Go Bruins!