As soon as Ben Howland got the boot, my first thought for UCLA was Andy Enfield, college basketball’s flavor of the month. But, looking behind his two great years at FGCU, there is a whole lot of basketball nothingness. Sure, some history as an assistant, especially as a 25-year-old “shooting” coach in the NBA, plus his history as a business maven and marrying a supposed “super model” wife. Not sure if the millions came first, or the wife, or vice versa. My bet is on the money then the wife. But back to basketball: Seems like a real gamble, handing him the reins to a top program with so little actual experience. In a way it reminds me of all the Bruin wonks saying a 65-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in poor health and with zero head coaching experience, should have been handed the job.
Then there is the back story to Steve Alford, and an undercurrent calling for his release and the firing of Don Guerrero, due to events that occurred more than ten years ago, events that seriously call into question both Alford’s moral compass and judgment, and Guerrero’s judgment in hiring a coach with this in his background. It seems that when Alford was still at Iowa, one of his players, Pierre Pierce, was accused of sexual assault. Alford went way beyond what any coach should have done in “defending” his player, in both vociferously proclaiming Pierce’s innocence, and far worse, in disparaging the credibility, truthfulness, and honesty of the victim. Allegations (alleged but unproven) at the time even included Alford using a third-party intermediary to contact the victim with the intent of influencing her to drop the charges.
A University of Iowa investigation determined that Alford had acted inappropriately, concluding in part: “While Coach Alford believed he was acting as he had been directed in making the statements he made to the media, one set of those statements–confirming his certainty in Pierce’s innocence–implied that he disbelieved and discredited the claims of the student victim, and his words were perceived as reflecting insensitivity to issues of sexual assault and sexual violence.”
Piece subsequently pled guilty to one of the charges, and years later committed other acts of sexual assault, resulting in almost a year in jail and several months in sex offender treatment programs.
So, we ask, should Alford’s actions disqualify him from becoming, in 2013, the head basketball coach at UCLA and should Guerrero lose his job for choosing Alford? That is a difficult question. My best response is this: Alford’s actions were totally improper, but the events happened more than a decade ago. Hopefully Alford learned from his errors, and would, should any event in any way similar occur in the future, act appropriately. This is not meant to validate his actions back at Iowa, but given that there were no allegations of a cover up and that the player was prosecuted and convicted, Alford, and Guerrero, should sink or swim based on what happens going forward, not in looking to the past.