Alford ready for big challenge at UCLA

Steve Alford says he's ready for the challenges that come with heading up the UCLA basketball team.

LOS ANGELESUCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero didn’t pull any punches.

His guy, Steve Alford, isn’t afraid of the pressures that come with being the head coach of UCLA, one of the most storied college basketball programs in the nation.

"He’s not the kind of guy that’ll shy away from what UCLA basketball is all about,” Guerrero said. “He’ll handle the expectations with dignity, with understanding, and with class because that’s the kind of person that he is. So, I think that he’s ready for this stage, without question.”  

Take that Shaka.

Stevens, have some too.

Being the head coach at UCLA isn’t like any other job in the country. Sure, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas are all prestigious in their own right. But, for starters, none of those schools are in a market as large as Los Angeles, or boast a resume that UCLA great John Wooden produced during his Westwood tenure.

And, none of them have to compete with the Lakers, Clippers and Hollywood for attention.  If you want the spotlight, the product better be great, or you'll be an afterthought.

“UCLA is not the kind of place where every coach out there would want to tackle those expectations,” Guerrero said. “When you talk to representatives (of coaches), it’s very clear that not everyone is ready for this stage.”

Enter Steve Alford.

He walked right into the new Pauley Pavilion for his introductory news conference on Tuesday, announcing he was ready to take on those expectations head first.

Alford’s a guy who has 22 years of experience as a head coach and during that time, he led three schools (Southwest Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico) to the NCAA tournament, most recently with the Lobos.

As a 16- and 17-year-old prep star, he played in front of tens of thousands of people.

“It’s not a lot of high school kids playing in front of 20,000 people on a weekend,” Alford said.

He played for Bobby Knight in perhaps the heyday of Knight's chair-throwing antics at Indiana, and the two paired for the national title in 1987. Alford also shared a backcourt with Michael Jordan on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.

A combination of those things, Alford feels, has prepared him for Los Angeles.

“I think I’ve been conditioned, both mentally, physically, spiritually (for this),” said Alford, who replaces the fired Ben Howland.

“It’s cliché but it’s UCLA and there’s just something about those four letters that bring a lot of attention to (it). Wow, what an opportunity.”

With rival USC making a big-name hire itself, taking Andy Enfield from tourney-darling Florida Gulf Coast, the pressure is already on.

Alford's up for the challenge.

Now it’s time for results.