UCLA named Steve Alford their new head coach this morning, replacing the recently fired Ben Howland. Presumably, the former’s record at New Mexico made him an attractive enough Plan C after Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens rejected the Bruins’ overtures. Alford’s success at The Pit will obviously receive scrutiny over the coming days and weeks, but perhaps his tenure in Iowa City is worthy of consideration?
In 2002 while head coach at Iowa, Alford staunchly defended Pierre Pierce after the Hawkeye SG was accused of sexual assault. In 2003, The Chicago Tribune’s Melissa Isaacson suggested Alford’s testimonials on Pierce’s behalf, “frequently resembled a grass-roots campaign to elect his sophomore guard as class president.” Keep in mind, this was a full two years before Pierce would be charged with a subsequent sexual assault that led to his eventual dismissal from the Iowa program (and inclusion on the state’s Sex Offender registry).
Alford took advantage of every available opportunity to praise the character and pronounce the innocence of his player. Despite the fact he is a university employee and, as such, has an equal responsibility to support the victim, Alford also used the occasion of a violent crime to espouse every cliched virtue of team sports known to man.
You know the ones–overcoming adversity, us-against-the-world, blah, blah, yech. In an interview with WSCR-AM 670 last week, Alford, when he wasn’t pulling out the “That’s old news” routine, lumped his player’s admitted sexual assault into “our share of distractions” and made both Pierce and the victim sound like equally injured parties in their attempt to “move on.”
Sources close to the victim say that hearing Alford go out of his way to defend the moral fiber of Pierce these past few months, and turning it into another one of his all-for-one sermons was, in fact, the most painful aspect of trying to move on.
But hey, what better way to show potential recruits and their parents how fiercely loyal and supportive you are to your players?