Coaching search profile: Steve Alford

  • 03/20/2017 1:25 pm in

After nine seasons in Bloomington, Tom Crean is out as Indiana’s head coach and the search for his replacement is underway.

Inside the Hall will profile some of the candidates who are being discussed for the job over the coming days. Our second profile takes a closer look at UCLA coach Steve Alford.

Steve Alford is a polarizing candidate in discussions amongst Indiana fans. There’s a segment who believes that the school needs a former player and point to Alford as the best of the potentially available candidates who fit that description. Alford has things rolling right now at UCLA. The Bruins are a popular Final Four pick after beating Cincinnati 79-67 on Sunday night.

And there’s also a segment that doesn’t believe Alford’s head coaching resume or past qualify him for a serious look from Indiana.

So, where does the truth lie in the debate? It’s possible that both sides have a case.

The 52-year old Alford is in his fourth season as the head coach at UCLA and has the Bruins in the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in four seasons. UCLA is back on the national stage this season after a disappointing 15-17 performance last season that ended with Alford apologizing to fans and returning his contract extension.

Prior to arriving at UCLA, Alford built New Mexico into a power in the Mountain West Conference, but the Lobos never broke through in the NCAA tournament. Alford was 155-52 (74.9 winning percentage) in six seasons at New Mexico, but never made it out of the second round of the NCAA tournament. Prior to his stint at New Mexico, Alford was at Iowa for eight seasons and won just 58.9 percent of his games.

In his 22nd season as a head coach, Alford hasn’t advanced past the Sweet Sixteen. He’ll have his chance this weekend as the Bruins face Kentucky in the South Regional semifinal in Memphis. UCLA is 31-4 this season and already beat the Wildcats earlier this season in Rupp Arena. Alford’s overall winning percentage is quite strong at 66.8 and only four of his coaching seasons have been at a traditional basketball power.

If we’re looking at Alford in the present, it’s hard to argue against the fact that he’s done a very good job this season with UCLA. He secured commitments from two of the nation’s best freshmen this season in Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf. And in a season where the pressure to succeed has been significant given last season’s results, he’s delivered. On the recruiting trail, UCLA is rolling. The Bruins have the nation’s No. 2 ranked recruiting class for 2017, headlined by North Central forward Kris Wilkes. That suggests he could resonate quite well with recruits from Indiana.

The past, however, is hard for some to forget.

Alford’s handling of the Pierre Pierce situation at Iowa is still discussed and he was asked about it as recently as last week in a press conference. It would be an issue that the Indiana administration would have to address in some form if he were hired.

Final Analysis: There’s been a lot of smoke pointing in the direction of Alford, but is it coming from Bloomington? Fred Glass has played the process very close to the vest and it’s unlikely that, even if he views Alford as a serious candidate, he’s communicating that information publicly.

It’s very possible and probably likely that Alford has significant interest in the job. It’s unclear how much of an obstacle his buyout would be to his candidacy.

Filed to:

  • Huff Post. ’nuff said.

  • IU Cal 1809

    More and more I’m thinking about if they can’t get Billy Donovan. I want to see Alford back here and see what he can do. We all love IU BBALL so why not bring in a coach that loves it too.

  • Arch Puddington

    Agreed. Throw in a trip to the Final Four, and CTC’s record is notably better.

  • pcantidote

    Agree. I wasn’t suggesting we should literally forget about Pierce, only that you don’t even need to go there. His coaching performance alone is disqualifying.

  • pcantidote

    I do a mean Don Fischer impression in the car alone sometimes. It is spot on. Just ask me ;).

  • pcantidote

    Glass has set the standard with his firing of Kevin Wilson. Alford has the Pierre Pierce incident on his record. Therefore Glass cannot hire Alford. The conversation really just ends right there.

  • Fergnation

    Iowa is a death sentence for a coach. Suprised more people don’t understand that. Tom Davis the only guy that could win there.

  • Fergnation

    I didn’t know that Alford had coached at IU for 9 years. Seems like many are comparing Iowa to Indiana. If you can’t see the difference between coaching at Iowa and coaching at Indiana I don’t really think your argument holds much weight.

  • Arch Puddington

    My comment rather specifically said that CTC’s record was better than Alford’s “before coming to IU.” Let’s compare CTC at Marquette to Alford at Iowa and New Mexico, semi-analogous programs:

    Alford’s teams made the tournament 6 times in 14 year; CTC’s made it 5 times in 10 years. Alford had one trip to the Sweet 16; CTC had one trip to the Final Four. Alford had a conference winning percentage of .530; CTC’s was .616. And as SeeingRed pointed out, Alford has a serious scandal in his background; CTC does not.

    In my book, that gives CTC the slight nod. (And for what it’s worth, CTC’s record for the last 6 years at IU is pretty comparable to Alford’s four years at UCLA). All of which makes my point. I can’t for the life of me figure out anyone would want a guy whose record is at best the same as, and arguable worse than, the guy we just fired.

  • RMK Assembly Hall

    The lack of defensive reputation concerns me. I am curious how this game against KY goes. They seemed to help and communicate well defensively as I watched their last game. They don’t seem to be overly physical and tough. If that’s been characteristic of his teams for the better part of 20 years, than unfortunately I agree, I don’t want that mentality here.

  • RMK Assembly Hall

    I can’t speak to that as I haven’t watched Alford coached teams super closely. That certainly would be reason for concern as a tough defensive mentality is an absolute must for the next coach to have. Perhaps hiring Alford with Fife as an assistant would fix that. 🙂

  • RMK Assembly Hall

    Donavan would be a hire very similar to Calipari going to KY, Roy Williams going to NC, and Self going to Kansas. I hope so bad that he comes and brings Indiana kids with him. That would be a home run hire. I’m just afraid that it’s been to brief of a time in the NBA for him. That was not an easy choice to leave FL. To so quickly abandon that decision, no matter how hopeless the OKC job ultimately is without Durant, is going to be tough. He will have plenty of suitors if he sticks it out a few more years but would like to return to college ball.

  • VanBurenBoys

    There are 25 coaches in D1 that are at least as qualified as Alford to be IU’s next head coach. The fact that Alford graduated from IU in 1987 doesn’t make him the best candidate to coach IU in 2017. If someone gave (the generic) you his coaching resume without a name on it, and asked if you thought he was qualified, no way would you say yes. Alford’s resume is worse than Crean’s, and Crean has no off the court baggage either.

  • Jay Skibbe

    Read what he said, LEARNED FROM THOSE EXPERIENCES !!! currenty headed to FINAL FOUR ?

  • AssemblyBall

    I don’t want him either, I don’t think he’s an outstanding coach and I don’t think he will be out-coaching people often. That being said, trying to come to terms with the possibility and make myself feel better about the potential:

    Last 10 years (NM and UCLA)-
    251-96 (72%), 4 regular season champs, 3 conference tourney champs, 6 tourney appearances, 3 Sweet 16s (all at UCLA with more comparable talent to IU than what he had at New Mexico).

    If he can make Sweet 16s as consistently at IU as he has at UCLA I would be happy, so long as they advance further certain years. I just want IU making the tourney to be expected, and Sweet 16s to be fairly common at IU. Deeper runs when we have a really talented group, like he has at UCLA this year. Has not been the case in my lifetime.

  • Is this because you think Mack’s resume now is better than Crean’s was 9 years ago?

  • RMK

    This seems too generous. Even if you dismiss his lack of morals off the court (which should IMO eliminate him from contention), he was run out of Iowa (who lost more because of the state of the program he left!), was branded as a coach who couldn’t win in March at NM, and there were adds demanding that he be fired this past off-season at UCLA. I honestly think that if UCLA hadn’t paid so much for his buyout at NM, he would have been. His coaching is very similar to Crean’s in that its all 1 on 1 basketball, which has worked this season because of Ball. His defensive coaching ability also rivals Crean’s. Hiring him would be a disaster.

  • IUbriz

    Where did you get the stats for your first statement? I am trying to prove a point however all I have seen so far has multiple teams outside the top 21 in defensive rating in the last 7 years.

  • IULore

    Yeah, it’s not that playing bball like football is better, but in the BIG you won’t get any calls.

  • IUbriz

    Never mind, found the info, Kenpom shows what you are saying is right.

  • IUBizmark

    Alford wouldn’t be my first choice and not my second or third, but I think people project that he would lock down the state’s recruiting and that combined with his coaching experience would combine to create more success that CTC had here. It’s a gamble to be sure.

    I think one could argue that CTC pulled in roughly equal talent to what would be available within the state of IN, so I’m not sure I’m buying this synergistic projection by some fans.

  • Jer78

    My money and my time will be invested in another University if they hire Alford. Hiring him will speak volumes about the expectations the administration, trustees and athletic department have for IU basketball. Ask yourself this question; if UK, Kansas, UNC or Duke were searching for a coach, would Alford even be a candidate? Nationally, this hire will go along with the “IU basketball isn’t relevant anymore” narrative.
    And I’d have to say, if they hire Alford, I can’t disagree with that narrative.

  • William Stephens

    I agree that Alford is not the best coach, but might be the best coach for Indiana! The fan base has been fractured since Bob Knight was fired, Alford could fix that situation. Alford can recruit Indiana talent better than Crean did. A coach’s mistakes can be overcome with great talent. Look at Kentucky! Alford is ethical, he is related to IU’s traditions, Alford understands what Indiana expects around graduating, social life, class attendance, commitment to the program and he knows the ropes enough to run a top tier blue chip program. As far as his defense, Steve was not a great defensive player in his own right. Hiring an assistant coach or coaches who can teach that part of the game is an easy fix. Every person grows into a better employee after a few years, Steve is much better now than when he first became a coach. I cannot hold a young coaches mistakes against him and believe if he had it to do over the Pierce situation would be dealt with much differently. Steve Alford is Indiana’s favorite son, a high school star, Mr. Basketball, College All American, NCAA Champion. Returning to his home state to coach his alma-mater may be the Cinderella story that Indiana needs to energize it enough to get back to the championships we long for. Maybe not the best coach but the best coach for Indiana.

  • William Stephens

    If you liked Crean then Alford would be the same with better talent. That sounds like a good deal to me.

  • William Stephens

    I hope so.

  • marcusgresham

    16? Man she’s got a wasp waist.

  • PreKnight

    I do not live in Indiana now (moved to Arizona in 1982), but I grew up in Indiana and graduated from IU 50 years ago. Just based on his records at Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA, I am not sure I want Alford as IU’s next basketball coach.

    That said, if he is hired as coach I will support him 100%. I would say that he should be given the same nine years as Crean before putting him on the hot seat if he is not doing as well as an IU coach is expected to do.

  • PreKnight

    That is not a comment made by a real Indiana fan. I also do not want Alford, but I graduated from IU 50 years ago and I will die an Indiana fan.

  • Jer78

    Good for you. So I guess you’re a die hard IU football fan too? How much $ and time do you spend on that sport?

  • PreKnight

    In my opinion, I have NO respect for RMK after he did not even respond to an invitation to join the last undefeated basketball team (1976 IU team) and then turned around and attended a PUke event and having his picture taken with PUke fans, but refusing a picture with an IU fan (at least that is what I read in an article about the event). As far as I am concerned, nothing needs to be fixed, since everyone except RMK has moved on.

  • PreKnight

    I watch the games on BTN every weekend they play and I attend games when they play out west (I live in Arizona and have since 1982). I may come back and attend the Homecoming game this year (since I graduated 50 years ago this year). Money?? I am retired, so not so much. I retired from the U.S. government in 2007.

  • AssemblyBall

    Last 5 year coach comparison using KenPom:
    Coach A: 119-50 (70%), overall 50, offense 67, defense 61, SOS 82
    Coach B: 125-50 (71%), overall 32, offense 31, defense 62, SOS 40
    Coach C (unlikely, but for comparison): 151-30 (83%), overall 11, offense 15, defense 17, SOS 42
    Coach D: 130-47 (73%), overall 47, offense 92, defense 34, SOS 120

    A is Archie, B is Alford, C is Sean Miller, D is Mike White. White’s 2 years at Florida have been impressive. Alford holds up ok. Archie doesn’t look quite as good. Sean Miller shows what elite looks like.

  • Jer78

    You are a true fan sir. No doubting that. But everyone has their tipping point, and mine is Alford.

  • PreKnight

    Just for fun, what were Crean’s numbers for the last five years?

  • Ron Cordry

    That was not a better Kentucky team, last year. Their bigs underperformed, unlike this year. See Bam!