Steve Alford has reportedly received a seven-year, $31 million offer to become the head coach at Indiana, and UCLA fans might not be sad if the former Hoosier heads back to Bloomington.
“It does seem that the UCLA fan base is not enamored with Steve Alford, and I can’t quite put my finger on why that is the case,” L.A. Times Bruins reporter Ben Bolch said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “This is his third Sweet 16 in four years. I think he’s done a really good job with what he’s had to work with, and he’s got the recruiting machine going full blast. They’ve got another excellent top-two or -three class signed for next year, but I do get the sense that, for whatever reason, he’s not universally loved in Westwood. I don’t quite understand that. The feeling I’ve gotten from people inside the school is that the administration is not 100 percent on board with him, either. I think this could be a good parting of the ways that works out for all parties involved. I this the timing could be perfect. This looks like this is something that really could happen.”
No. 3 UCLA (31-4) beat No. 6 Cincinnati (30-4), 79-67, in the Round of 32 on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16. The Bruins will face No. 2 Kentucky (31-5) on Friday at 8:38 p.m. ET in a rematch from the regular season.
On Dec. 3, then-No. 11 UCLA beat then-No. 1 Kentucky, 97-92, at Rupp Arena.
“That was kind of the moment when UCLA announced this is a special team on the brink of what is shaping up to be a special season,” Bolch said. “They were struggling a bit in the first half and really didn’t play their game until the second half, and they got into their run-and-fun mode in the second half. I do remember that Calipari singled out T.J. Leaf as the difference in that game.”
Leaf, a 6-10 freshman, had 17 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block against Kentucky.
“When he plays well, the Bruins really are almost unbeatable, as we saw in the second half (against Cincinnati),” Bolch said. “So I think he is kind of a key. Everyone talks about Lonzo Ball, and yes, he is very important and he does kind of drive the Bruins. But never overlook T.J. Leaf and his impact on what UCLA does.”