Saturday, March 12, 2016
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero was backed into an ugly situation with head basketball coach Steve Alford this week--fire him or keep him. Actually though, UCLA was screwed either way, a classic lose-lose situation.
Guerrero chose the lesser of two evils or, as some argue, the chicken's way out. He didn't fire him. So Alford lives to screw up another day.
Guerrero was backed into this corner after the Bruins were crushed by USC in the PAC 12 tournament this week and the angry calls for Alford's scalp reached such a deafening roar that the AD couldn't ignore.them.
It was a tough decision for Guerrero. Both choices are riddled with nasty consequences:
Keep Alford and you have positives, like sidestepping the chaotic upheaval caused by an abrupt coaching change and retaining the dazzling top-five recruiting class and avoiding that $10.4 million buyout that Alford would get paid to hit the road. But there's also a huge downside in not firing Alford..
First and foremost, you are guaranteed another season of lousy coaching. At times it's blatantly clear that Alford doesn't know what the hell he's doing. He doesn't make smart adjustments during games, he plays the wrong lineups and concocts ineffective game plans. His players are woefully undisciplined, often seem unprepared and are wildly inconsistent, a sign they are poorly coached. He insists on playing son Bryce at point guard, where he's slow and a major liability on defense. Sources close to two players say the some players quietly resent Bryce, creating a negative tension that has been harmful all season. In that critical USC game, the players looked disinterested and clearly weren't giving their best effort. That's a reflection of coaching. The list of coach Alford's weaknesses goes on and on. Guerrero was under fire because donors were in mutiny mode, threatening to pull support and boycott games if Alford wasn't canned. In addition, the fans base was screaming for Alford's head.
So, fire Alford?
Not so fast. That path is littered with thorns too, just different ones. First of all, you reward this bad coach by paying him $10.4 million to go away. What an incredible waste of money, something that would haunt the program for years and anger donors who foot the bill..Then you have to quickly find another coach, something Guerrero was not prepared to do, creating a very dangerous situation--hiring in haste. That might lead to a bad choice, maybe even bringing in another Alford. It's possible this new coach might not fit the coveted recruiting class, impeding the development of these young players, which would be reflected in the win column next season.
So Guerrero decided to keep Alford.
Unfortunately it's "lose" again but in a different way. Of course, the coaching won't improve, which will make it difficult for the team to get better. For the hotshot frosh to develop their skills and generate wins, they need quality coaching, which they are unlikely to get from Alford. Also, the negative Bryce factor is still there, undermining the team once again.
Bottom line. The Bruin players laid down in the USC game, against their most bitter rival, and played like crap--embarrassing the school. The bulk of next season's team will be made up of these players who quit on their coach. So the prized freshmen will step into a toxic situation, with dispirited teammates, disconsolate donors and a pissed-off fan base. The weight of the program will be on their young shoulders.
A recipe for disaster? Without question.
There's a very good chance, under all that pressure, coach Alford will flop next season. If he finally gets kicked out, don't be surprised if Guerrero, who helped create this mess, follows him out the door.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 6:01 PM