The Steve Alford nonsense begins…now

alford.jpgI’ve long held the belief that those who push for a Steve Alford hire are among the silliest the IU fan base has to offer. Because Alford was once an outstanding college basketball player, in the eyes of some he is now qualified to coach one of the most storied programs in that sport’s history. “He’s an Indiana boy!” “He played for Coach Knight!” All nonsense — stupid, illogical nonsense.

It’s especially dumb because Alford has had a chance coaching a Big Ten team, and has failed rather spectacularly. His career conference record at Iowa? 61-67, with three NCAA appearances and three NITs. He never got past the second round in either tournament.

Now he is banished to the desert, where failed Big Ten coaches go. And yet, inexplicably, Alford still has enough rep to get fawning columns written about him in the Albuquerque Tribune. To wit:

In evaluating the possible Steve Alford-bolts-to-Indiana scenario, let’s begin with a three-part hypothesis:

1. Indiana President Michael McRobbie will pick integrity over wins, and send Kelvin Sampson and his cell phone packing.

2. The Hoosiers will be wise enough to go after Alford with open arms and open wallets.

3. Alford will be homesick enough to drop the Lobos like a hot rock and go home like Ulysses returning to Ithaca.

You can’t help but look at an Alford/Indiana match and see sweet things. This is Lucy and Ricky, Hope and Crosby, Doris Day and Rock Hudson.

First of all, I’m loathe to pick apart a columnist’s work bit by bit. It’s a bit mean. Also hilarious, but mean. But it’s this sort of clueless rhetoric we get any time Steve Alford and Indiana is brought up. It’s as though people are so willing to get a “storybook” hire at IU they’ll ignore his negatives (his abysmal coaching resume) and invent new positives (“integrity,” as if anyone who enabled Pierre Pierce can be lauded for integrity). Also, they’ll apparently use references so old — seriously, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby?! — that dropping Ulysses feels fresh by comparison.

So let’s continue down the rabbit hole. This is the scourge of the Steve Alford backer. Seeing that Richard Stevens writes for Albuquerque paper, the only plausible explanation to follow is that Lobos fans already hate Alford so much they’re trying to sell him out of New Mexico. That has to be the explanation. You’ll see what I mean:

A young, flashy coach with charm, sophistication, media savvy and poise, who knows how to recruit the heck out of the country and coach the heck out of a basketball team.

Again, none of this is true. Alford has had his chances. He has failed.

He also is Indiana – to the roots, to the core, to the heartland. He is kin. Hoosier All-American. NCAA champ. Indiana All-American boy all grown up.

Not only are none of these sentences, they have nothing to do with being a good basketball coach. Repeat: nothing.

This probably is a truth, too: Alford is a better basketball coach today than Indiana legend Bobby Knight. Alford is not restricted by old-fashioned idealisms about man-to-man defense. He relates to kids better. He is more flexible.

Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god. You did not just compare Steve Alford to Bob Knight. Tell me you did not just do that, Richard. Tell me.

Bob Knight career Big Ten record: 353-151
Steve Alford career Big Ten record: 61-67

Saying Steve Alford is a better basketball coach than Bob Knight is like saying Bob Knight is a better basketball player than Steve Alford. Bob Knight could, in a fit of rage, rip out his eyeballs and deafen himself with that nasty rap-hop you youngins are listening to these days and — blind and deaf — Bob Knight would still be a better basketball coach than Steve Alford. A total jerk, yes. But a better basketball coach.

This is the part of the column where Mr. Stevens seriously begins to lose steam — he likely had to turn over the Bob Hope record playing on his Victrola — and so starts saying random things that make Steve Alford look like a golden god. Like:

– And Alford manages a game like chef Emeril Lagasse manages an omelet over a low flame.

– If the Gods watching over Indiana basketball could mold a perfect Hoosier coach, it would be Alford with maybe a dash less snobbery. Let Alford keep the ego. The Hoosiers won’t mind. He’s one of them.

– Alford grew up smelling Indiana corn and Indiana locker rooms…

– Alford is a combination of Rick Pitino and Knight. It’s a good mix. He has the slick and the flash to wow boosters and fans. He believes fundamental basketball combined with honest effort will win games. He works hard. He coaches hard. He has nice hair.

Seriously, people, he has nice hair. Nice hair! This is what we need. This is the coach we’ve been looking for. This is our man — the man who spends the extra ten bucks on American Crew at his salon. (Yes: Steve Alford goes to a salon. Lesser coaches commiserate in barber shops. Duh.)

More to the point, the Hoosiers should realize there is no basketball coach in America more suited for this job, no coach more capable of becoming an instant symbol of Indiana basketball and Hoosier values.

Again, even if this were true, and I don’t think it is, this has nothing to do with being a good basketball coach. Absolutely nothing! Recruiting, hiring, x’s and o’s — those are the core of what makes a good coach. Hair, down-home “Hoosier values,” once playing for Bob Knight — these are decidedly not the core of what makes a good coach. They aren’t even the crust. If coaching were a diagram of the Earth, those things would be, maybe, Pluto. Maybe.

Oh, and speaking of space, let’s allow Richard to close with about six cultural metaphors, all teetering on varying levels of irrelevancy:

It’s like Lassie, E.T. or Dorothy going home. It’s natural. It’s what it should be. You can almost envision Alford in his Lobos office clicking his heels and hoping for a little magic that will transport him past Kansas, over Iowa and deep into the Indiana heartland.

It might happen. It should happen. It’s Alford’s birthright. It’s his destiny. For Indiana, it’s time to bring E.T. home.

OK, so let’s figure this out: Alford is Lassie. No wait — he’s Dorothy. And he wants to click his heels three times and go home, but then who is E.T.? Is E.T. his dog? I thought Lassie was his dog!

Wait, wait, I’ve got it: Steve Alford is the holy trinity of irrelevant, needless basketball coaches/cultural symbols. He’s Dorothy, Lassie, and E.T. and himself simultaneously. Fortunately for IU fans everywhere, E.T. has just as good a chance at the IU job this summer. Though his hair is a bit of an issue for me…

  • http://matthewjenks.blogspot.com Matt J.

    In Doherty's defense, UNC's last championship was with his players. Doherty can recruit. It's just that he can't do much with them when he's got them.

  • http://matthewjenks.blogspot.com Matt J.

    And by tournament team, you mean bubble team, right?

    It would help if the Big XII wasn't one of the best conferences in the country this year.

  • Jerry

    Baylor has LOST 6 of its last 7 games with another shot at a loss tonight against KSU.

    Sorry , but he is WAY down my list unless we want to bottom fish after starting construction on a 80,000 sq ft practice facility. I love the guy, Penn HS ,I am from SOuth Bend but can't we aim higher ?

  • td

    I haven't used the word, “Diatribe” in a long time however, this certainly fits the bill. I'm not here to root for Steve or defend his coaching record. But, my god, give the guy a break. I lived beside Steve's girlfriend(now his wife) for several years and got to know Steve and his family pretty well. I would agree Steve has some traits that some would look down on. He's cocky, maybe even conceited, but not to the degree we put up with for years at IU. I think once you get near anyone who is or has been very good at something one may find them a little self-centered, conceited or whatever anone wants to call it. Steve has done many good things in his young life, probably more than most. He's been called on to help IU work out problems with alumni that Steve knew well and did so without fanfare. Did he deserve at least a phone call from the current administration when Sampson was hired, you bet. They called him at other needed times. Do you think for one moment our interim coach won't be hired permanently if they do well with someone elses team the remainder of the year. We do it all of the time at IU and, although I have nothing personal to add about any of our current assistant coaches, none have had the coaching success Alford has. So I will leave it this way. I'm not campaigning for Steve as it would do little good anyway. I don't think you should campaign against him either. I fear we're headed for something less palatable if the administration goes their normal route.

  • mike p – chicago

    speaking of pierre pierce…after he got kicked out of iowa for the second time, went to jail for 1 year of a 2 year sentence, was released to 4 years of probation in iowa – he served the 1st year in iowa, got his probation moved back to his hometown of westmont, IL – just outside of chicago. now, he spends 6 hours a day prepping for another shot at the nba…….and plays basketball in a sunday evening recreational league in the western suburbs of chicago…..a league that i happen to play in, lol…….what a stud that dude's turned out to be

  • http://cubshaikus.blogspot.com SocksShortsSwish

    As my username suggests, I'm an Alford guy. But only as a player. He's an awful fit here, not a great coach, and if you think KS is arrogant…oh man.

  • Ray

    The big problem with Alford coming here to Indiana is that he IS an IU legend. If Alford were to be named coach here it would be difficult, at best, for the University to handle his teams not succeeding or, god forbid, any kind of other problems.
    It would be hard to remove Alford, then again, maybe we could get another president just career hopping trying to make a name for himself to make the move…

    However, I for one also do not believe that Alford is the answer to our problems BUT I also do not agree that his Iowa resume is totally representative of his ability. Their is QUITE a difference between recruiting at Indiana and Iowa. This is not a cure-all, but we all know what a difference a name can make when it comes to calling, well maybe visiting haha, a recruit.

    Mark Few, anyone?

  • td

    Lou Watson was also an Indiana legend in high school and college at IU. Became the coach at IU, failed miserably, and was given the heave-ho. Unless you're saying the current administration has no gonads, I don't see it as a problem. Our next coach has to be sqeaky clean first and successful second. Our problem as IU fans is we put success first for too many years when it became apparent we didn't have to worry about clean.

  • RStevens

    Postman. Thank goodness you are loathe to attack a writer's work. I would have hated to see what you might had written had you loved the task at hand.
    And, by the way: The first two of those non-sentences were sentences. They had subjects. They had verbs. Like “Jesus wept.” That's a sentence. So is that. But not this.
    The others were fragments. Poetic license. That's a fragment.
    Thanks for the pub: RStevens, Abq Tribune

  • stanklove83

    We (alumni) came to the conclusion that we didn't want Alford during the last coach's search. He has already been fully vetted. We can do much better.

  • Brett

    Agreed. I would put Matta at the top of the list, he knows what IU basketball means to Indiana. Plus you can't get a cooler name than “THAD”. THAD in the infamous south park episode “Guitar Queero” could play the guitar hero guitar acousticly. Now that is cool.

  • Brett

    Wow! What is worong with you people thinking that Scott Drew is a good canidate for this job!? I hope you are kidding. As I have said before; this job is a top 10 job in the college ranks. No reason we should not get a top 10 coach. I don't want one of these unproven coaches that coach mid-major teams ( I know baylor is in big 12 but still baylor isn't in the same sport let alone ballpark as IU). It is nonsense, you people make me laugh sometimes…. THAD MATTA.

  • cjonz

    C'mon, everyone in Albuquerque knows Richard Stevens is an idiot…and we all know Alford would be an idiot to even want the IU job anyway. Where's the plus? Bloomington over Albuquerque? I think not. Having no chance to ever win over the IU faithful? Mike Davis got to the final game and got ran out of town…Coming in on the heels of probation? Hmmm…no. And the more you don't want him, the more he wants us. You know, a “failed” Big 10 coach heading to the desert where he belongs. Kind of like Lute Olson and his multiple final fours and a title in Tucson. Sounds good to me…
    Go Lobos!!!!
    Chris

  • MJ

    This article was written by a tool who as of Saturday, Feb 23rd no longer has a job because the paper he worked for shut down. And it does not reflect the feelings for SA out here. He is doing one hell of a job with pretty much the same team that sucked at 15-17 last year, now 21-6, with six road wins. We had 8 road wins total the last 5 years! He also has a recruiting class coming in ranked anywhere from 9th-20th in the NATION next season. Just because his Big ten (not overall record) record was below .500 doesnt automatically make you a bad coach and recruiter – just look at his successes at Manchester, SW Mo state and 1st year at UNM. Iowa is not exactly a bastion of college hoops (last big 10 title in 1979? cmon now) and the big ten isn't exactly worldbeaters -half the conference is worse than most teams in the mwc. Iowa has run off plenty of successful coaches (Davis, Raveling, Olson) so why not one more. If Indiana does not want SA and thinks he stinks that's perfectly fine with us.

  • Lobos

    Lobos fan here, fans in Albuquerque have embraced Alford, maybe that is part of the success he's had in his first year at 21-6 with the same team minus Dandridge plus Gary that went 14-17 last year and I believe 16-14 the year before.
    He has pulled this team together and taught them to play as a team, he has brought back alot of excitement to the PIT and they are looking at possible NCAA play in his first year. They beat Texas Tech this year and almost have surpassed their road wins compared to last 5 years of 8-40 or something like that.
    I'd rather not see Alford going as with the staff he has hired they have helped him bring in the #9 recruiting class for next year in the nation and UNM basketball will be heading back to where it once was and more!
    Good luck IU with all the crap Sampson got you into, you scoff Alford and have no clue, yet you hire guys like this and while Knight I think is a great coach, as a person and human being, he's got major issues. He is a dick.

  • Lobos

    “We (alumni) came to the conclusion that we didn't want Alford during the last coach's search. He has already been fully vetted. We can do much better.”

    Yeah, you obvisously have improved from the last 2 you guys ran out of town, well Sampson you didn't run out, he just cheated!
    Don't worry, maybe third time is a charm. so much for that 21-4 record this year and post play.

  • LoboRich

    Although a Lobo fan, I thought an IU fan brought up a good point that Alford succeeds at the “mid-major” level because he brings in a level of players greater that him conference couterparts but doesn't do as well when going up against other B10 schools.

    That's fine with us; we'd love to have him as he's doing a remarkable job here and rekindling interest back in the Lobos that we haven't seen in years! GO LOBOS!

  • IULobo

    As an IU alum I never rooted for Texas Tech, but I watch as many New Mexico games as I can get. Makes what we have been watching, even with our winning record, seem like play ground ball.

    After his failure with Pierre and his handling of JR giddens, I'd say he is now 1-1 with bad Apples.

    I would welcome Steve Aford back to Bloomington in a second.

  • IULobo

    As an IU alum I never rooted for Texas Tech, but I watch as many New Mexico games as I can get. Makes what we have been watching, even with our winning record, seem like play ground ball.

    After his failure with Pierre and his handling of JR giddens, I'd say he is now 1-1 with bad Apples.

    I would welcome Steve Aford back to Bloomington in a second.

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