Q: A week ago, Rick Klatt agreed that they needed to market your program better, and you talked to him that day, or the day after. Can you talk about what you two discussed?
Alford: I basically told him I don't want this to become something to where I'm hammering certain departments on campus. It's not that at all. I think when my season's over, just like Bob evaluates me and our coaching staff, and I evaluate our team, I think all those entities that affect my program, marketing's one of them, ticket sales may be one of them. There are vast numbers of different things, all those have to be evaluated for what we can do better. That was really my meeting with Rick, it was me saying, "Let me be the guy that's on the hot seat and let me the be the guy that takes all the arrows, I don't need other people getting arrowed on campus with me. Let me put that shield on every day, and we'll talk about it. I've accumulated a lot of the course of the winter, and had friends of mine working on that. I think he's doing the same, I think Bob, he and I can sit down and say "Is this feasible, can we do these things to market the program?" Whether it's promotions for game day promotions, is it the timeline that we get going on things. I know it's a difficult task from a budget standpoint. You've got a major college football program that gets an awful lot of attention, and should be. Their season's not getting over until January. When I got here, the first two years it was over in November, it's getting over in January now. We can't start the promotions for our program in January. A lot of that has to start in the spring. Once our season's over, Rick and I will have some really good discussions what to do that will be best for our program.
Q: Who are you sort of pushing for All Big Ten honors on your current team?
Alford: I think Adam, Bru, and Jeff are the three guys, as far as my voting guys, that have really done a lot. I haven't seen, did Bru end up leading the Big Ten in rebounding? He got beat? Who got him, Johnson? He ends up second, if he would have rebounded in the second half against Michigan, he'd be the leading rebounder in the big ten. He'd had a very good rebounding Big Ten season, he was a go to guy for us. Jeff was extremely solid and consistent, then the late run that Adam had. I don't know of too many Big Ten players that were averaging 19 over the last 10 games. He might have been the only guy in the last 10 games in the Big Ten that averaged 19, so he did a lot too.
Q: Did he take over Pierre's role as the guy that gets back on a fast break?
Alford: I think he's just learning that. He's a track superstar, so that's what was hard to figure out why it was always Pierre leading that, because actually, Adam runs just as well, if not better that Pierre does. It's just part of that learning process of when the ball changes hands. I was in Cedar Rapids all weekend after recruiting watching my oldest son play and that's what I was telling him. He's a hard worker but he doesn't understand when the ball changes. It takes him a two count to go from offense to defense and defense to offense. Just running, he's a very good runner for his age, but he doesn't understand that change of possession. Adam, at a much more mature level and being at the collegiate level is very similar to that. He's got to keep working on when the ball changes and goes from O to D and D to O, really understanding that and transforming that into play. He's done a lot better job in the last two weeks, especially of going from D to O of just getting out and running, because he does run extremely hard to the other end.
Q: Do you think Adam was willing to be the fourth option when Pierre was still here?
Alford: I think there's a lot of that. That could easily be the mindset. He hadn't played for a year, he's transferring from an in state school, these guys have been here longer. Yeah, I think just feeling your way in. To his credit, when all of a sudden something did happen, he said "Hey, now I know I need to step in and have a more assertive role" and he's done a very good job with that.
Q: How do you feel about the possibility, ironically, that you might be the one who sends Gene Keady off in to retirement?
Alford: I know the coaches are working on doing something for him, for he and his wife. Tanya and I have already done something for him here as far as getting him a golf package. The best scenario would be able to shake hands knowing that we've won and I've still been able to send him off being a part of two vacations for him. He's just been so good for college basketball. I think you always the utmost respect for coaches and people who go through what you have to go through on a daily basis. Somebody who's spent 25 years at one school, in the Big Ten, and the pressures of the Big Ten and done what he's done, you just congratulate him. You have so much respect for him, you know your team has to play extremely good basketball to advance. That's going to be a tall order for us because we know they're going to give him everything they've got, I know our guys are going to work hard, they've done it all year, and we just have to hope we can play well enough to get a win.
Q: Are you going to stick with Erek? He's gone three straight games without scoring?
Alford: Yeah, I think so. Hopefully we don't hit four. (Laughs) We're 3-0 through the process. Probably one of the reasons why is because Doug's comfortable in his role. Shaking that lineup maybe puts Doug in a different kind of pressure role. I don't want to lose Erek, because he does do some good things, it's just all about his scoring. We'd like him to get to blocking shots and screening. Two of the last three games, he didn't at Michigan, but prior to that he was really screening well and defending like he was. I thought Michigan, he got in a little bit of foul trouble, but to be honest with you, he missed a couple rebounds, I took him out. I didn't forget about him, but Doug was playing so well that he never got back into the flow of things. So it's really been more about production of Doug that has hurt his minutes a little bit. I don't think we'll change our lineup. We've still got some days of practice here, but.
Q: Did you see a kind of light go on for Doug in the last few weeks where he sort of understood his role finally?
Alford: Yeah, I hope so. Sometimes it takes JC kids a little longer. I think he was trying to factor in so many different things. We've been telling him all year, basically, "don't think out there. Just go and play. You've got athleticism that nobody else has on our team. Just go out and do those things. Run, jump, rebound, defend." The points then will come off that. I think in the last two weeks he's really done a nice job. 8 rebounds at Michigan, two, three key put backs. Those are the things he's got to do and those are the way he's going to score, getting out on the break and running. He knows he's not going to be one of the go to options, he's got to screen like crazy, and through the screening, his option comes a little higher on the pole. He's been our best defending post player over the last three weeks. That's going to big for us coming down the stretch.
Q: This seems like a really odd question when we're still talking about the NCAA Tournament. Are you going to be the coach here next year?
Alford: (Laughs) Well, I hope so. I've said it before, that's not a question I can answer. I don't make those calls. We're going through things like that's definitely going to happen. our recruiting is going tremendous; not just for the class that we've got coming in, but the class behind that we're down to the finals with some really key members. And that's obviously a big class for us because you look at our junior class this year and we knew that was going to be a big class. But that's not a question I can answer. That's probably for somebody else.
Q: Is Tony Freeman still in the running for Mr. Basketball in Illinois?
Alford: I think so. I don't know when the balloting or voting comes for that, but yes, he is.
Q: Are you having to fight some negative recruiting with you being perceived to be on the hot seat?
Alford: Yeah, you do that all the time. With my situation it's always been well you're going somewhere else or now you're on the hot seat. So, you deal with that all the time. Our message to recruits is that you won't hear that out of us. We could look at that opposing coach and say the same thing; that they're trying to go somewhere else; they're trying to make it to the league; or they're on the hot seat. I just don't think that you go about recruiting that way. We've always been about selling Iowa; sell our program; sell who we are. If that's not what you want, then you shouldn't be coming here anyway. If you've got to negative recruit somebody, you're sending a wrong message. It's not good for our game. And when it comes to August, we're not there. What you've sold negatively, now you've got. And maybe that kid doesn't like that anymore.
Q: At what point do you think your job review would be?
Alford: That's really varied. I'd have to look at my calendar to see exactly when all of that is taking place. We've always gone to the Final Four, and (Bob Bowlsby) is extremely busy with the selection committee. I've got the I-Clubs and a couple of key golf dates. So, I don't know. And recruiting is the whole month of April now with the exception of a four-day dead period. Our jobs don't quiet until May 1. That's when I'm back in the office a lot. It's usually been in May. Whether that changes will be up to him.
Q: You've always said that your job situation doesn't concern you, but none of us believe you. (Big Laughs) You've got to think about it some. We've been asking questions about it for the last three weeks.
Alford: Yeah, but I really don't. I've not given that any thought what so ever. I know it's there. I can always hear it whether it's wonderful individuals like you bringing it up (laughter) or whatever it may be. I sit Tanya down because sometimes the wives don't have areas to release and talk about things where I've got colleagues and come to practice each day and do what I love doing. I can remember when I was cut for the last time my fifth year in the league. I said (to Tanya), you know what, think about how we've been blessed since I got cut or fired from playing the game. We've got three incredible kids. I get into a profession where I didn't have to be an assistant for 40 years. I was a head coach at the age of 26. We go from making an NBA salary to $30,000 at Manchester College. And I've been in contact with incredible people and incredible players at three institutions thus far. It's been on blessing after another. I told you that I'm a man of faith. I just know that things will be OK. I hope it's here. We like it. We think we're building something here. We are making some progress. We're not going to cut corners. We're going to do it the right way regardless of how much the heat gets turned up. We're not going to be unethical about it. Maybe that won't work. Maybe the timeline gets too short. I don't know about that. But regardless of what happens, I really don't think about that. I had no idea when I was cut at Sacramento that one month later a door would open at Manchester College for $30, 000 and I would thing that that was awesome. But I did, and I had the time of my life. And I've been having a great time ever since. So, regardless of what happens in the spring, things will be fine with me. And the right doors will always be shut and closed at the appropriate time. That's the way that I've always dealt with things as a player. Maybe I'm to crazy and naive as a coach to think that that's the way to do it as a coach, too. Time will tell.
Q: Has Bob Bowlsby given you any clues like saying, "Next year, ..."?
Alford: No. But we've never done that. In my six years, we've never really discussed things in season a lot. Obviously, Bob is extremely busy this time of year. I'm sure it will be a month (before we talk). But we've never talked much through the years about next year this is what we've got to do. That's something in the spring.
Q: Are you concerned about Mike Henderson's ball handling?
Alford: Certain times, trying to crossover or go behind the back against full court press probably isn't the right things to do. When we evaluate tape, Mike won probably 5 or 6 or the awards that we evaluate as coaches. Most deflections, got the defensive award. When we made the switch in the second half and put Mike on Harris instead of Adam on Harris, I think that changed the complexion of the game. Harris made a couple shots on Mike that were really difficult shots that. I don't think it was a form of bad defense I think it was just incredible shot making. He wore him down, Harris ended up being 9 for 25, he turned it over 6-7 times, Mike had five steals, Mike had 8, 9 deflections, Mike played career high minutes. I thought he was really good in the Michigan game. Did he make some mistakes, yeah. For a sophomore guard put into a game where we know it's a must road win for us. The one thing we didn't have on our resume was road wins. We got one at Penn State, this was going to be our last road game, there was a lot of pressure in that game. For him to play the way he played, the positives much outweighed the negatives in that game.