VIDEO: Alford's First Press Conference

Steve Alford

UCLA introduces head coach Steve Alford, who is asked questions about his understanding of the expectations at UCLA and his handling of the Pierre Pierce situation at Iowa...

Steve Alford at his introductory press conference:




Transcript

UCLA: Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome you all to Pauley Pavilion for this special day as we introduce and welcome the 13th head men's basketball coach at UCLA, Steve Alford. Along with his family, his wife Tanya, his sons, Kory and Bryce, and his daughter Kayla. At this time, it's my honor to introduce UCLA Executive Vice President and Provost , Scott Waugh.

SW: good afternoon, everyone. My name is Scott Waugh. I'm the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost here UCLA, and it's my distinct pleasure to welcome you here to UCLA. Chancellor [Gene] Block, who unfortunately is in Washington, D.C., would have loved to have been here and welcome you on his behalf, but in his place, I do want to welcome you here to UCLA. This is a great occasion. It's the beginning of a new quarter. It's spring. it's a time of new expectations. New hope. Looking to the future. And in that respect, we're here to welcome a new member of the Bruin family to UCLA and welcome him with all the enthusiasm and optimism that we can muster. So in order to do that formal introduction, I want to introduce Dan Guerrero, our athletic director. Dan.

DG: thank you, Scott. To add to Executive Vice Chancellor Waugh's comments, I'd like to also thank Chancellor Block for his support during this entire process. I can tell you that over the last few days his enthusiasm is absolutely fantastic as it relates to the hire of Steve Alford and we're all very pleased that the Chancellor has been in our corner and participated throughout this entire process. I'd like to also express my gratitude to many of the Bruin alum… basketball alums who are here in the audience today and who have supported this program, both in recent times and obviously throughout the years. Many of them, as I indicated, are here today. There are a number of them that are here in spirit. I can tell you that these individuals have supported our program with passion and enthusiasm. This basketball program belongs to all of you, and I'm very proud of the fact that you've taken the time to come and not only be here today but to share your thoughts, to talk about the program in a general sense, and for always wanting what is best for UCLA basketball. I'd also like to thank our fans for their enthusiasm and support of our program. For all those who stood by this program through thick and thin. I can tell you that no one understands the passion of the UCLA fan base more than I do, and that's really what makes UCLA basketball, and UCLA athletics just in a general sense, so great. And finally, I'd like to also thank our terrific staff. Those that are really the backbone of this entire program. They are always there for every situation that we deal with, including the hiring of a new coach and obviously they're a big part of why this athletic program is so great.

Nine days ago, when we decided to pursue a new direction in our men's basketball program, we were presented with a great opportunity to create the next chapter in Bruins basketball history, but with that opportunity came an awesome responsibility to find a coach who can not only embrace what we are and what we've always been, but certainly have a vision for what we could become. We sought a coach who could build long-term success on the shoulders of committed exemplary and talented student-athletes which is always been the roadmap for UCLA basketball success in the past. As I mentioned in my statements on Saturday morning, we found a coach who not only represents and honors and respects the treasured history of college basketball and UCLA's place in it, but also a coach who can bring a brand of exciting basketball with unselfish and talented student-athletes. The new chapter of Bruin basketball is a blending of the past, the present, and, of course, the future, and we can't wait to get started.

Steve Alford is an accomplished player, coach, father, and husband, and I have no doubt that UCLA basketball will flourish under his leadership. It's an honor to welcome Steve, his wife Tanya, son Kory and Bryce, and his daughter, Kayla and Cocoa too, to the Bruin family. Ladies and gentlemen, the new basketball coach at UCLA, Steve Alford.

SA: thank you, Dan. Obviously, I have to thank Dan and Chancellor Block for this incredible opportunity. Really appreciate the opportunity that's afforded us. I know my wife and children have already been introduced. So I do appreciate the family being here. They've been a big part of obviously our basketball family, playing for my father. We been in basketball a long time so really appreciate them being here. My representative, Michael Barnett and his wife, Lori, are here. I appreciate them being here. My new assistant coach, Duane Broussard, who was with me at New Mexico, is here as well so I appreciate them being in attendance. Got a lot of our team here, and we're looking forward to meeting them later in the day and really getting things going. It's been a very exciting last 48-72 hours trying to figure those things out, and I really appreciate the former players that are able to be here and the former players that have reached out to me already. That means a great deal and there's probably nothing… very few things any more impressive on the basketball side than when you start looking at the former players situations. So we're very excited about bringing them really closer to what we're doing.

This is a very exciting time for me, obviously growing up, my first through fourth grade I was 27… I was born 27 miles from Coach Wooden's high school. My father had the great opportunity of going from South Knox High School in southern Indiana to Martinsville High School to where he was a coach there for four years. And I can remember, as an elementary kid, I started learning the game in kindergarten. In Indiana you learn that. You learn basketball before you learn how to count. You learn basketball before you know how to do your ABCs or anything else so... But I can remember my kindergarten years, but I really remember… probably my first idea basketball was getting dropped off. Actually picked up around my neighborhood with the bus, and I rode the bus to Poston Road Elementary School. And I can remember… I had… getting into arguments with principals. It's not something I've made… hopefully UCLA will understand that's not something I try to do all time, but I did get into arguments with administrators even as a first grader because the argument was that you weren't going to drop me off at home on the way home. So I was the only kid in school that I was picked up one place but I was dropped off another place. And that didn't always go well, especially when you're a first grader, but I always wanted to be dropped off where my dad was practicing and that was [Glenn M. Curtis Memorial Gymnasium]. And obviously, John Wooden played for Glenn Curtis in that gym. So I could remember growing up and learning the game as a little guy trying to just get the ball up to 10 foot goal, trying to hit the rim, trying the net. At that time, the things weren't invented to where you could goals down to eight foot or six foot. So I didn't make a lot of shots, but my idea of basketball, I kind of learned it the right way. I know my father developed the John Wooden Mental Attitude award that was given to the best mental attitude award winner at Martinsville High School in his four years there so that's kind of how I got started. And when he took the job at New Castle Chrysler High School, where I got a chance to play a gymnasium that seats 10,000. It's the largest high school gymnasium in the country. My basketball career kind of started there. So it's been a very exciting time for me.

So please know I'm leaving somewhere that I have an awful lot of love and admiration for in the University of New Mexico. I want to take time to thank Paul Krebs, the athletic director. I want to thank Dr. [Brian] Smedley who hired me. Dr. [Robert G.] Frank, who's now the current president there. They have given me an incredible opportunity over the last six years. My coaching staff, all the administration staff that helped us so much, build something that was extremely special over a six-year period. To win the amount of games, the amount of championships, and develop the program that we did there. And then obviously our players. It's not easy when you're 29-6 and you've won back-to-back conference and tournament championships and you return your entire starting five. That's a difficult thing to leave, and I think the thing I'm most blessed with is I had the opportunity there for six years to build that

And then when a place like UCLA calls, when you think of excellence and when you think of college basketball at its pinnacle, it's UCLA basketball, and to take the tour this morning, it's been a whirlwind. And I appreciate all the staff here that has really welcomed our family with open arms. I'll forget names for awhile because it's all been thrown at me, but to come through the brand-new Pauley [Pavilion]… It's been a long time, probably since 1984, when I was here for the Olympics. That was probably the last time that I've been in Pauley so to see it a little bit different is exciting. To see the tradition and yet, the newness to it, is a lot of fun. And I really appreciate the staff, really welcoming us and giving us all the things that we need to see very quickly as a family. What that UCLA is really all about. And seeing 108 national championships is pretty impressive and when you think of… it's not just basketball. Obviously basketball has 11 of those. And having the most in college basketball and a lot of fun, but to know that you're working at a university that… it's not one sport, it's not two sports, it's not one side of the campus versus the other side of the campus, it's an entire campus that really prides itself on excellence.

And Dan's already alluded to already about the word "optimism" and being very optimistic about the future, and I think that's why UCLA has been so successful consistently is because their optimistic approach to the future and to the present and the opportunities that they give you, whether it's in academics and learning, or it's in athletics. And "excellence" is something, as I started looking in to this opportunity, and it was a very difficult decision. it was a leap of faith. It was a family decision, but as I looked into, I just saw a place that could really help better everything about our family because of the values, because of the family atmosphere, and because of the word "excellence" of all that that means to this university. So it is a great humbling, honorable position that I'm in today, and I very look forward, very much look forward to the challenges ahead. I look forward to meeting the team a little bit later. And getting to know them a little bit better and understanding what we're going to do, moving forward, but I really like the excitement and enthusiasm that I think is going happen here in the near future so I very much appreciate this opportunity and if there's any questions at this time, I'd would be more than happy to answer those at this time.

Jim Hill: Coach, to your right, Jim Hill with CBS-2 Sports, welcome to Los Angeles.

SA: thank you.

JH: in the past, UCLA has had difficulty in recruiting a lot of great Southern California athletes and I know you are a great recruiter and that's one of your strong points. Will that be one of the first things that you will concentrate on and how we you bridge the gap that has developed?

SA: well, recruiting is always a different dynamic, and it's obviously the bloodline to coaching so regardless of where it is. But obviously this area is loaded with great talent. Great high school coaches. Great programs throughout this area, and I've been very fortunate. I had no idea. I was at Manchester College 22 years ago after being cut my fifth year into the NBA, and I was very happy at that Division III program, and I kind of got my start. Went to Missouri State. Had no ties at Missouri State. Had a wonderful four years. Then to the University of Iowa. Back in the Big Ten for eight years, and then when New Mexico called, that was really the first time I've been to the southwest, and I think our family fell in love with the southwest, and if you look at our six years, we've recruited very well in Southern California and a big part of our makeup as a basketball team at New Mexico has been California kids so we've been in the area. We've had success there and obviously I think if you look at the long history of UCLA in men's basketball you've kind of dominated in that area. And so that's going to be obviously something that's very important to our staff, as we put it together, that we get back and we do a very good job right from the beginning of developing relationships with high school coaches. I've done that everywhere I've been because I have such great respect for high school coaches because my dad was a high school coach for nearly 40 years so that's something that we're very much looking forward as the April recruiting period gets very close here, to building those relationships and hopefully getting a lot of the top talent to obviously commit to UCLA right here so that's going to be something that's very important our staff right away.

Scott Reid: Steve, Scott Reid from the Orange County Register.

SA: hi, Scott.

SR: You've talked a lot about Coach Wooden and how he's shaped you and your embrace of his values. Do you think he would have handled the Pierre Pierce case the way that you did? And in 2003, you gave an interview where you said the whole Pierce episode made Pierre stronger. Do you think the whole episode made his victim stronger?

SA: well, that was an instance that happened years ago at the University of Iowa, and all I can tell you with that situation, is I followed everything that the University of Iowa administration, the lawyers that were hired, I did everything that I was supposed at the University of Iowa in that situation. I followed everything that I was told to do.

Peter Yoon: Steve, Peter Yoon from ESPN-LA. Have you made any inroads in your assistants and assembling your staff?

SA: yes I have and it's something that… obviously about the first 24 hours, my biggest concern was New Mexico so most of Saturday and well into Sunday, it was all about my team there because been there six years. Have really grown that program. They do. They become your family and so there's a lot of emotion there. Very difficult to leave that situation. Trying to help the situation continue with my associate head coach, Coach Neal. Very hopeful that he gets that position. He's earned that position. He's deserving of that position, and I think he's the right man for the job to keep things going at a high level and take it to the next level so that was my initial, probably, 24 hours. Since then, getting a hold of our current members of our team and just introducing myself… I know that's difficult over the phone. We'll do that more here in the next coming days including this afternoon but then putting together our staff. Coach Broussard's the first member of my staff to be hired, and I think there's going to be others here very quickly over the next, probably, 24 to 48 hours. I think we'll start putting our staff together. I want to have an opportunity this afternoon to visit the current staff, out of respect, and also talk to them about their situations here because… that's obviously a tough position that the current assistants are in. I've been in the business a long time so I understand that and I want to have an opportunity to talk to them as well.

Derrin Horton: Steve, Derrin Horton with KTLA.

SA: how do you do?

DH: when you look at Ben Howland and what he was able to accomplish here: 3 straight Final Fours, went to the Dance, they've won the regular season title. Do you understand the expectations here? And give us a sense of what you think you can do to fulfill what you and Dan have talked about.

SA: well, and I have an awful lot of respect for Ben. I've known him a long time from the Northern Arizona days to Pittsburgh to obviously here. A great basketball mind. And really appreciate what he's done at UCLA, but all of his stops in college basketball. So, you know, it is the business and all coaches understand that. And all you have to do is walk, whether you want the Bruin Walk, you walk through Pauley. You walk around and you get to see what's expected here. You get to see the high level of excellence that comes with this basketball job. And that's why I'm very optimistic that I've prepared myself. Our staff will be prepared for that. I think we'll going to prepare our young men to do everything they can, whether you about recruiting or guys are currently on the team, of getting better in strength and conditioning. Getting better on the floor. Just continuing that development that you have to do, but having 22 years [coaching experience] has helped. Those 2 top pyramid levels of Coach Wooden… you've got "faith" on one side. And I've said this was a leap of faith, and I truly believe it was a leap of faith. And on the right side of it, you have the word "patience." My family would probably tell you I'm not very patient. I'd just soon you give me a 2 foot putt then make me putt it. I haven't had the best of patience, but I think that patience now has come full circle, having 22 years in the business. Playing at the level that I got to play at. Playing for my father in high school. Playing for Coach [Bobby] Knight in Indiana. Playing for Coach Knight in the 1984 Olympics. Getting four years in the NBA, playing for great coaches and great players. And then all my stops, from Manchester to Southwest Missouri State to University of Iowa to the University of New Mexico, that's been a patient journey, and I think I'm excited about how the journey is now.

And the opportunity has brought me full circle to the premier basketball school in the country, and I am excited about that challenge. And you say you understand it. I can say I understand it, but until you walk it every day, until you work at it every day, it's probably something that's going to continue to sink in, but it is an opportunity, and it's a challenge that I think that… through to my experiences, both as a player and now as a coach, having more years in coaching than I had as a player, I never thought that would happen. I thought I'd play forever, and I learned very quickly that doesn't happen. But now I've coach longer than I've played. I'm excited about that. I'm really excited about now being at an institution and being at a place that is at the top when it comes to college basketball. And being able to recruit the best of the best. And put a product on the floor that's the best of the best, at an institution that really believes in excellence across the board. And I'm looking forward to that opportunity and challenge.

Beth Harris: Hi, Steve. Beth Harris, AP. Have you spoken to Coach Knight since you've accepted the job? And if so, what counsel or advice did he have for you?

SA: he's been tremendous. He's been a great friend of mine. The best thing about Coach Knight was I didn't take an official visit there. I took a lot of unofficial visits because I went to his camp from third grade on. So I kind of had the dream of playing at obviously Indiana University. And everything that Coach Knight meant. I can remember his home visit with my mom and dad. He said he would give me an opportunity to develop as a basketball player for four years. He would make sure that I was with quality young men. That we'd have a championship-style of team. Have a chance to win championships with really good high quality character people. I'd get my degree in four years, and I'd have a friend for life. And, you know, sometimes now that I've been in recruiting business for 22 years, you sit with a lot of coaches. You get to see a lot of programs and just like my team that I'm getting ready to embark with here, with our new journey, you hear a lot of recruiting spiels and you hear a lot of promises. And I would assume that there are a lot of student-athletes out there that have an awful lot of empty promises fulfilled and that was the highest quality about Coach Knight. That when he said something, he fulfilled it. And those things happened. I played on a championship team in 1987. I played with high quality, high character teammates that are dear friends of mine to this day. I've have heard from a vast majority already of our ‘87 team of taking over the reins of this program. He told me I'd get my degree which I did. In four years. And he said I'd have a friend for life and he is somebody that I call very regularly. Now sometimes I have to call several times because he's either out shooting turkeys or he's fishing so I don't always get a pickup right away. But Coach has always been somebody that I can go to for advice. And I know, going forward, he was very excited about this when I talked to him. He knows what UCLA is all about, and so I know in the coming days, in the coming weeks, Coach Knight will be one of those guys that I constantly reach out to, like I have at all my other stops. But obviously here at UCLA, it's at a completely different level and I will constantly… he's a mentor of mine and whether it's my father who's a mentor in this game or it's Coach Knight, these are two individuals I talked to quite a bit about.

Rahshaun Haylock: Coach, Rahshaun Haylock, Fox Sports West. You mentioned the challenge. Being in LA, being the head coach at UCLA isn't for everybody. What is it about your makeup that makes you want to step up to the plate to take this challenge?

SA: well, I think I've been conditioned, both mentally, physically, spiritually. I think my entire makeup, from a player's standpoint, I can remember as I go back to my roots, playing at New Castle Chrysler High School, I played in front of 10,000 people on a Friday night and on a Saturday night, I played in front of another 10,000. There aren't a lot of high school kids playing in front of 20,000 people on a weekend. I've been doing that since I was 17. Since I was about 16, 17 years of age. Played in the Olympics here in LA. People didn't think I was supposed to even make that team. That I only made it because Coach Knight was my collegiate coach. But not only did I make that team, I became one of the starters on that team. I started a gold medal game which, to be able to start in the same backcourt… be able to say you started in the same backcourt as Michael Jordan was a lot of fun. But to be able to play in the Olympiad which is obviously, when you talk about worldly athletics, that's as good as it gets. And then from a coaching situation, to start at the Division III level and be able to really learn and make mistakes and no doubt, I really know about them, and grow as a coach, grow as a person, and then just gradually make that move up from getting at Southwest Missouri in the Missouri Valley to the University of Iowa in the Big Ten to then seeing what's happened in New Mexico and what's happened with the Mountain West Conference. We were arguably one of the two best leagues in the entire country this year, to see that growth, I think this is the next step. I'm optimistic about it. I understand the challenges, but this is a challenge that I think I've been patiently waiting and now that the opportunity has come my way. I'm ready. I know I'm much more prepared and much more ready than I was 15 years ago, for this challenge. But at the age of 48 and 22 years into coaching, I think I'm as prepared as I was ever going to be prepared to try to do the things that we all aspire and want to, here at UCLA, and hopefully that's what's going to happen.

UCLA: alright, thank you, Coach. At this time, we're going to open it up…

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