Over the past few seasons, Steve Alford has been a name thrown around whenever the IU job has been mentioned, and now that Tom Crean is officially out, that name has begun to gather some more weight. After a great playing career with Indiana where he helped lead the Hoosiers to the 1987 national title, Alford has carved out a solid coaching career with stops at Manchester University, Southwest Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico, and his current team, UCLA.
Alford spent the four years of his career at Manchester University before garnering attention from Southwest Missouri State, where he took the Bears to a Sweet Sixteen before losing to Duke. After his success there he moved on to Iowa, where he struggled and only managed to make the Big Dance three times in seven seasons. Most notably, Alford was the coach in 2006 when his third-seeded Hawkeyes fell to 14-seed Northwestern State in one of the most famous upsets in NCAA Tournament history.
Alford really began to receive national attention after taking the job at New Mexico, where he won at least 20 games in all six seasons he coached the Lobos. Alford never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, with his most memorable loss coming against 14th-seeded Harvard in the first round of the 2010 tournament. He’s been pretty successful at UCLA, where he reached the Sweet Sixteen in both of his first two years, and currently has the Bruins at 28-3 and ranked third in the nation.
On the bright side, Alford has done reasonably well to get his teams to the tournament with the exception of his tenure at Iowa, who is far from a basketball powerhouse. He was able to get a couple teams seeded in the top 16 at Iowa and at New Mexico, and is headed for another top sixteen seed with this years UCLA team. Now he has been at the wrong end of a few embarrassing losses, but he does have the potential to win conference titles (though those don’t seem to matter much, do they) and get his teams a reasonable shot at winning the whole thing.
Look, Alford is by no means a bad coach, but there are definitely some questions there. For example, during Alford’s tenure at Iowa, leading scorer Pierre Pierce was accused of raping a female athlete. Alford was one of Pierce’s staunchest defenders, even after Pierce pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and had to be suspended. The next year, Pierce was accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend and Alford was left with no other option than to dismiss him from the team. These are, at best, questionable decisions on the part of Alford. At worst, he didn’t really care about either victim in the case and just wanted his team’s leading scorer on floor at all costs.
That doesn’t sound like the kind of man that should be the face of the Indiana basketball program, no matter how good he was when he played.