UCLA fires Bruins basketball coach Steve Alford, begins national search for his replacement

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 UCLA is cutting ties with coach Steve Alford effective immediately, the program announced on Monday.

"Throughout my career as an athletic director, I have maintained a belief that making a head coaching change during a season is rarely in the best interests of our student-athletes or program," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a statement. "In this case, however, it is now clear to me that what is best for our current students and for the overall good of the program, is to make this change now. While Steve led us to three Sweet 16 appearances, we simply have not been performing at a consistent level and our struggles up to this point in the season do not bode well for the future. On behalf of UCLA Athletics, I want to thank Steve, Tanya and the entire Alford family for their commitment to UCLA and wish them all of the best in the future."

Alford released a statement urging support for the program.

""I'm extremely appreciative to everybody at UCLA for what has been a tremendous run and the chance to work with such special student-athletes and coaches," Alford said. "While I wish we could have had more success, my family and I are so grateful for our time in Westwood. We wish this program nothing but the best. I sincerely hope that the UCLA community will rally around this team, its players and the coaching staff as Pac-12 play begins."   

UCLA says it will honor Alford's contract and will use department-generated funds to complete the buyout.

The news of Alford's firing was first reported by Bruin Report Online.

Stepping into replace Alford for the short-term as interim coach for the Bruins is Murry Bartow, who will maintain the position until the end of the season. Bartow was hired by Alford to replace David Grace on UCLA's staff earlier this year. He has past experience in a similar position, serving last as an interim coach in 2016-2017 for South Florida.

The move for UCLA should come as no surprise. Alford and the Bruins are 7-6 on the season and in the midst of a four-game losing streak, during which the Bruins have fell at home to Belmont and Liberty. The 15-point Liberty loss on Saturday may have been the final straw, as UCLA was non-competitive in the final minutes and sloppy throughout, turning the ball over 24 times and missing a season-high 22 3-point attempts.

Firing a coach midseason in college basketball is rare, especially so for a high profile program like UCLA. But with the slower-than-expected start culminating with a home loss to Liberty, it was simply a matter of when, not if, Alford would be gone. 

Alford was asked about his job security earlier this month and deflected, but his seat was considered warm going into the season. The sluggish start heated it up quickly.

"There's no issue with that with me," Alford said when asked about his job security after UCLA lost to Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic. . "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."

By cutting ties before Pac-12 play, UCLA brass may be hoping a coaching change could spur a turnaround from the early season woes. If UCLA has one thing on its roster its talent; all five of its starters are former top-100 players according to 247Sports Composite rankings. If the players were no longer responding to Alford and UCLA leadership believes that could change with an interim coach being inserted, this move could prove wise.

Under Alford, UCLA brought in the No. 12, 7, 24, 11, 5 and 6 recruiting classes in the country from 2013-2018. But after winning four NCAA Tournament games in his first two seasons, Alford went 2-3 over the next three seasons in postseason play including missing the NCAA Tournament altogether in 2015-16.

Alford compiled a 124-63 record as the Bruins coach after taking over the program in 2013. He won one Pac-12 Tournament title and made four NCAA Tournament appearances, eking into the First Four last season. The Bruins are on pace to miss the Big Dance this season barring an auto-bid by winning the postseason conference tournament. 

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