Let’s just say that Steve Alford and UCLA lose to Cincinnati later today. It’s very possible – the advanced stats have UCLA winning by just one.
After the team spent most of the season in the Top 10, Bruins fans will certainly be angry with a loss, and some may even call for Alford’s head. Remember, he nearly lost his job last year when they missed the tournament.
What’s Alford to do? His son graduates, and his two best players (TJ Leaf, Lonzo Ball) will be off to the NBA. Sure, two more Top 25 recruits are coming in (Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes*), but who needs the headache of fans who demand championships, something Alford hasn’t been able to deliver at any stop as a coach?
So let’s say Indiana has been romancing Steve Alford in Sacramento all weekend, and the coach decides to throw in the towel on Westwood and bolt for the school he won a title for.
Who would be at the top of UCLA’s wish list?
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: Won at Winthrop, won at Wichita State, and could pick any open job he wanted this offseason. Beat Kentucky Sunday and … well, who knows. Is Wichita State changing conferences? The Shockers entire rotation returns next season. Of course UCLA would call him. Whether or not he’ll leave is the question.
Kevin Ollie, Connecticut: Disappointing, injury-riddled season for the Huskies, but Ollie is well-thought of in pro and college basketball circles. Ollie grew up in LA. Coached the Huskies to a title at UConn. The drawback, of course, is that the potential of his coaching in the NBA one day will always be there.
Randy Bennett, St. Mary’s: Has been in the same job for 16 years, and in his last eight seasons he’s had four NCAA trips, including one Sweet 16 run. The Gaels are poised for another monster year, with juniors Hermanson and Landale returning.
Tommy Amaker, Harvard: Yes, I’m with everyone else who thinks Amaker is waiting out Coach K at Duke in hopes of landing that job. Amaker has rebounded nicely from the Michigan debacle with a good run at Harvard. He’s missed the NCAA tourney two years in a row, but he did take them dancing four times in a row prior. Might UCLA call him? Sure. He’s a terrific recruiter, and a good coach, too.
Archie Miller, Dayton: Would he want to coach against his brother 2-3 times a year? The Pac-12 would love it and the media would love it. He’s been at Dayton six years, the high point was the Elite 8, and his best three players are out of eligibility. Whatever domino effect happens with Alford, it feels like Miller will be part of it.
Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt: Played at Valpo, won there as a coach, and he just completed his first year at Vandy. But of course he’d listen if UCLA came calling. (What if someone on their search committee were from the NBA, and was part of a team that Drew once played for?) At 42, he’s a decade younger than Marshall and Bennett, and he doesn’t have the experience at this level to make the leap. Yet.
* Wilkes was a high school star in Indiana, and one would assume he’d follow Alford to Bloomington.