UCLA Bruins’ head coach Steve Alford has been fired after five and a half seasons at the school. The coaching change comes just two days after the Bruins were embarrassed at home via a 15-point loss to Liberty.
Alford took the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament four times through five full seasons, including three trips to the NCAA Tournament. But it was what he couldn’t do that had him on the hot seat for much of the last few seasons. Perennial power UCLA never finished better than 3rd in the Pac-12 under Alford and puttered to disappointing finishes after some promising regular seasons.
The biggest sticking point for UCLA fans and boosters during Alford’s tenure was the 2016-17 team, which finished the regular season 28-3 and ranked 3rd in the country. Behind NBA draft picks Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf, Alford’s team made quick exits from both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments to finish the year with nothing to show for.
With three players off to the pros and several others – including Bryce Alford, the coach’s son and a four-year contributor – graduating, the 2017-18 season got off to an unfortunate start. Three freshmen, including Lonzo Ball’s younger brother LiAngelo, were arrested for shoplifting in China following the Bruins’ win over Georgia Tech. The incident blew up and became a black eye for Alford and his program. The team limped to a 21-win season and just barely made the NCAA Tournament, losing handily to St. Bonaventure in the First Four.
Saturday’s home loss was the final nail for Alford, who had already lost at home to Belmont in December and was 1-4 against power conference opponents.
The conference season starts on Friday for UCLA, who will be led for the rest of the year by interim head coach Murry Bartow. The 57-year-old Bartow, who’s father, Gene Bartow, coached the Bruins for two seasons in the 1970s, has plenty of head coaching experience. He was head coach at UAB for six seasons and East Tennessee State for twelve. He came to Westwood in April after serving as the interim head coach at South Florida last year (1-16 overall).
h/t Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press for photo