Well, it’s official.
The Athletic’s Seth Davis was the first to break the news last night, but now it’s official: UCLA has fired Steve Alford in the midst of an underwhelming 7-6 season — including home losses to Belmont and Liberty.
BREAKING: UCLA fires basketball coach Steve Alford after 6 seasons with Bruins amid 4-game losing streak. https://t.co/ZeABiM3oEq— The Associated Press (@AP) December 31, 2018
Since Alford’s mid-season firing has fired up the coaching carousel quicker than expected, here are five mid-major candidates that UCLA should consider hiring.
1. Russell Turner, UC Irvine
From a geographic standpoint, this hire would make the most sense. To say Turner has turned UC Irvine into a juggernaut would be an understatement: The Anteaters have five postseason appearances in the past nine years, two Big West regular season titles, an NCAA Tournament appearance (in which they took 4-seed Louisville to the wire) and are on pace to roll through the Big West this season. Turner knows how to recruit the LA-area as well; four of the Anteaters’ starters are from the LA area, and 10 players on the roster have SoCal roots.
2. Chris Jans, New Mexico State
If anyone can give the Bruins a quick turnaround, then it’s Chris Jans. The former Wichita State special assistant led New Mexico State to a 28-6 season and an NCAA Tournament berth last year. And so far, it looks like the Aggies are the team to beat in the WAC once again. Jans has a knack for finding all-conference type players in the junior college ranks and for snagging key transfers, which can help jumpstart UCLA in a pinch.
3-4. Either one of these former Arizona assistants
Joe Pasternack, UC Santa Barbara
Lorenzo Romar, Pepperdine
PAC-12 experience? Check. The ability to quickly turn around programs with recruiting? Check. The ability to craft teams that excel on one side of the ball? Check. Both of these former Arizona assistants (although Romar has yet to coach a full season at Pepperdine) have been able to do this in their short stints in the mid-major ranks.
For those who didn’t read any of our Big West coverage last year, Pasternack pulled off the nation’s biggest single-season turnaround by dragging UCSB out of the cellar and nearly leading them to the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos are trying to build off of that momentum this season, and look like the biggest threat to UC Irvine right now.
And while finishing Lorenzo Romar’s coaching career in Malibu might sound like a comfortable retirement plan, let’s be real: Romar would do really well at UCLA. In his first season at Pepperdine, Romar already matched the Waves’ win total from last year with only five returners and a handful of unheralded, local recruits he found during the late signing period. Now imagine what he can do with UCLA’s resources and facilities. The Bruins’ facilities are above and beyond anything Pepperdine has — plans for replacing Firestone Fieldhouse arena have been in the works for years, but have yet to come to fruition — and coupling elite college athletes with his uptempo, spread-out offense would definitely work. Plus Romar won’t have to worry about usurping Gonzaga in order to make the NCAA Tournament every year.
5. Eric Musselman, Nevada
Please, please, please do NOT do this. For the love of all that is good and holy, leave Musselman out of this.