College Basketball Insider

UCLA made a good hire (but not the hire the school is trying to sell)

LOS ANGELES -- Steve Alford will do just fine at UCLA, I think.

He averaged 27 wins at New Mexico the past four years.

He's a good and experienced coach.

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But there's no denying it's hilarious on some level that UCLA fired a man (Ben Howland) because he supposedly played a boring style and didn't win enough lately in the postseason to hire a man (Steve Alford) whose team ranked 221st in adjusted tempo this season and lost to an Ivy League school in the Round of 64 of the NCAA tournament.

"Steve is the perfect fit for UCLA," said Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero. "He is part of the storied history of the game of college basketball and understands the tradition and uniqueness of UCLA. Yet he also connects with a new generation of players and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented brand of basketball to Westwood."

That's a great quote.

But it's not exactly true.

For starters, if Alford is "the perfect fit for UCLA," why wasn't he initially targeted? Was it because VCU's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens were even more perfect? And the "up-tempo brand of basketball" line is just complete and total fiction.

Here's how Alford's New Mexico teams annually ranked nationally in adjusted tempo:

  • 2013: 221
  • 2102: 152
  • 2011: 213
  • 2010: 122
  • 2009: 172
  • 2008: 206

That's an average of 181.

Howland's teams ranked 165th in adjusted tempo on average over the same six years.

And the Bruins ranked 30th in adjusted tempo this season.

So there is literally nothing that suggests Alford is bringing an "up-tempo brand of basketball" to UCLA or even a more up-tempo brand of basketball than Howland played. But let's not let the details ruin the press release. UCLA wanted to fire a "boring" coach to get an "exciting" coach, so that's the way that UCLA is going to sell it, facts be damned.

Also worth noting: Alford is 5-7 all-time in the NCAA tournament.

He hasn't made a Sweet 16 in 14 years.

And yet the same school that fired Steve Lavin (five Sweet 16s in seven years) and Ben Howland (three Final Fours in 10 years) just hired Alford to return UCLA to its proper place atop the Pac-12, and never mind that Howland actually had UCLA atop the Pac-12.

Details. Smetails.

Who needs them on a day like today?

All that said, let me reiterate the first sentence of this column: Steve Alford will do just fine at UCLA, I think. He'll recruit well and win a lot. I doubt he'll win as much over the next 10 years as Howland won over the previous 10, but he'll still win a lot. Given the state of coaching searches and how difficult it is to lure a comfortable and well-compensated man away from a good job, this is about as well as UCLA was going to do.

So I'm cool with the hire.

I realize it might not seem that way.

But I'm cool with the hire.

What I'm not cool with is pretending it's something other than what it is -- simply change for the sake of change. Bottom line: UCLA didn't, with this hire, get a superior coach, a more-accomplished coach or a coach with a more entertaining style of play. UCLA just got a different coach, for better or worse.

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