It seems that Steve Alford has been viewed skeptically by UCLA fans since he came to Westwood in 2013. His latest move will likely do nothing to abate those feelings.
Alford fired assistant and recruiting coordinator David Grace over the weekend, and there was conflicting messages about whether it was his call or athletic director Dan Guerrero’s.
“[Alford] said that Dan wanted to make the change and the next day I talked to Dan and Dan said he never told him to make a coaching change, so I don’t know where that came from,” Grace told the Los Angeles Times. “But [Alford] never said I had any deficiencies anywhere; in fact, he said I did a great job.”
UCLA pushed back on Grace’s version of events in a statement attributed to Alford on Monday.
“As head coach, I am responsible for evaluating our season and determining what I feel will make us better as we move forward. When Dan Guerrero and I met following the season, we spoke about a number of areas in which we need to get better. I asked Dan if he would be supportive of a personnel change and he indicated he would support what I needed to do to improve the program. From there, I made the decision to go in a different direction with David Grace’s position. David and I have differing accounts of our conversation, but the bottom line is that I thank him for his impact here and wish him the best moving forward.”
However it unfolded, it appears to be a bit of a strange situation. Grace has led the recruiting operation that has landed players like Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and T.J. Leaf, putting UCLA’s recruiting classes among the best in the country. There’s also no apparent link to the FBI investigation into college basketball as Grace said he’ll be receiving a letter from UCLA stating as much. Grace was formerly the coach at the Compton Magic, one of adidas’ powerhouse grassroots programs. The whole thing seems a bit off, and it wouldn’t be surprising to think there was more at play here behind the scenes that precipitated the change.
What is clear is that the Bruins have been recruiting at a high level but not winning at an elite one under Alford, even with three Sweet 16 appearances. Alford has to be hoping this change evens those scales without sacrificing recruiting rankings.
Alford hired Murry Bartow, who was the head coach at East Tennessee State and UAB for 18 seasons, to replace Grace.
“We have a big offseason ahead of us,” Alford said in a statement, “and I know that Murry will play a major role in helping our guys get better every day.”