Apparently a 15-point loss at home was the last straw for UCLA and head basketball coach Steve Alford.
UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero has fired Alford, the school announced Monday morning. Assistant coach Murray Bartow will step in as interim coach for the rest of the season.
“Throughout my career as an athletic director, I have maintained a belief that making a head coaching change during a season is rarely in the best interests of our student-athletes or program,” Guerrero said in a statement. “In this case, however, it is now clear to me that what is best for our current students and for the overall good of the program, is to make this change now. While Steve led us to three Sweet 16 appearances, we simply have not been performing at a consistent level and our struggles up to this point in the season do not bode well for the future.
“On behalf of UCLA Athletics, I want to thank Steve, Tanya and the entire Alford family for their commitment to UCLA and wish them all of the best in the future.”
According to 247Sports’ Tracy Pierson, Alford and the university spent most of Sunday negotiating a buyout. Per the report, Alford’s contract called for a $2.6 million buyout if he was fired before May 1, 2019. Pierson stated that after Saturday’s loss to Liberty — UCLA’s fourth in a row — “influential donors put pressure on UCLA’s administration to make a change.”
Multiple reports Sunday night stated UCLA has already begun a coaching search, or at the very least started compiling a list of potential candidates.
After starting the season 4-0 and reaching No. 17 in the AP poll, UCLA is 3-6 since and at 7-6 sits only a game better than .500 with Pac-12 play beginning Thursday.
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In five-plus seasons in Westwood, the 54-year-old Alford went 124-63, making the NCAA Tournament four times. His best season came in 2016-17, when the Lonzo Ball-led Bruins finished the season 31-5, losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and landing at No. 8 in the final AP rankings.
UCLA also advanced to the Sweet 16 in each of Alford’s first two seasons.
In 24 seasons at Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA, Alford is 509-269 and has led his team to the NCAA Tournament 11 times. He was a two-time All-American as a player at Indiana in the mid-1980s.
Alford was 152-106 with three NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons at Iowa (1999-2007) before leaving for New Mexico.