Alford on Stephen F. Austin

Steve Alford, Jordan Adams, and Kyle Anderson talk about the upcoming matchup with Stephen F. Austin on Sunday in San Diego...

THE MODERATOR: We have from UCLA Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson.

Q. What are your thoughts on there has been a lot of talk, UCLA hasn't been to the Sweet 16 since '08, somewhere back then. Is it sort of up to you guys to reestablish that UCLA tradition?

KYLE ANDERSON: Yeah, definitely. Like you said it's been a while since UCLA has been to the sweet 16 and I think we have a very good chance, you know, with the team we have this year, you know, it's the first year for the coaching staff, and you know we have a very good team. We want to try to focus on preparing for this game tomorrow and you know, see what we can do.

Q. For either of you, the high that you guys came into the tournament on after beating Arizona in the Pac 12 tournament and the high that you were on after your second round win, talk about where your confidence is at right now and how important it is to be playing with the most confidence you have all year at this time of the season.

JORDAN ADAMS: I think confidence is very important in the game of basketball in general, so we're glad to see that we have a great amount of confidence coming into this tournament, you know, you need it with the amount of teams and how good the teams are so we're pretty happy with our confidence.

KYLE ANDERSON: We picked up some good wins last weekend in Vegas, got a good one last night so I think our guys have bought into what it takes to win games. We play a very good team tomorrow so we gotta buy into what our coaches tell us and stay together as a team and focus on winning from here on.

Q. For either one of you guys, what's the biggest thing you noticed about Coach Alford, what he did in comparison to your previous coach? What was the biggest difference?

JORDAN ADAMS: He allows us more freedom on offense and he allows guys who can go out there and make plays to do that and the freedom as spec is the biggest difference.

KYLE ANDERSON: I would say it's two different styles of coaching. Just two different ways of going about things. You know, I enjoyed playing for both of them but like Jordan said I think this year with Coach Alford his offense allows more freedom with our guards and we have a lot of playmakers on our team so it works out.

Q. Just a follow up about Coach. I think the popular image of him is this hardened, all business, tough guy and I was talking to Travis Wear a little earlier and he said away from the camera he's light hearted and messing with you guys all the time. Can you speak to the lighter side of Coach?

JORDAN ADAMS: He's a jokester, he jokes around with us. He's been a player before so he knows how to interact with us and make us smile off the court and not get so serious about basketball.

KYLE ANDERSON: Coach does a very good job about that, he's been a kid before and he's won a national championship and he understands what it's like. He played for Coach Bobby Knight, a legend in the game of basketball who probably wasn't so light hearted off the court so he takes that duty and does a very good job with it.

Q. You mentioned Bobby Knight and the impact that he had on Coach Alford. Is that a name that you guys hear often, is that a coaching tool for him to you guys?

KYLE ANDERSON: Yeah, not only him, but guys who taught me the game of basketball, my high school Coach, Coach Hurley, my dad's basketball coach who learned from Bobby Knight, it's a great teacher and my college Coach was a great player and coached by Bobby Knight so it's an honor to play for someone who has played for him.

Q. You mentioned the biggest difference between the last coach and this coach, the freedom that you guys are able to play with. Maybe no one seems to be playing with more freedom comparatively to his past than Norman Powell seems like the burden is off his shoulders. You did you see him emerging? He had a great game yesterday.

KYLE ANDERSON: Yeah, Norman has been playing great for us lately, he had a very good junior year. I think he's best in transition and when he runs that floor hard and we get it to him, he's able to make plays for us. He's been able to knock down open jump shots which has been a big help for us so Norman has been great for us this past few weeks and the whole season, actually.

Q. What are your thoughts on playing an underdog that pulled off a thrilling victory yesterday?

JORDAN ADAMS: They're an underdog but at the same time they're a good basketball team, 29 in a row, that's hard to do at any level of basketball. We're not going to take this team for granted. They earned our respect and VCU's respect so we think it will be a good game tomorrow.

Q. Last year you've been asked this in the tournament but last year ended in such a disappointment for you and so frustrating with the injury. How much of a relief was it just to play yesterday, forgetting the win and just to be in a tournament game and get that experience in your career?

JORDAN ADAMS: It was fun, and leading up to our game I was watching the other teams play because we had the latest game so I braced the moment and went out there and had fun in my first appearance.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Is it awe are joined by UCLA Coach, Steve Alford. He will start with an opening statement.

COACH ALFORD: Well, just excited. Our team is healthy, we got through our first game in the tournament with obviously a good win over a we will coached Tulsa team and we're pretty healthy through that so trying to get prepared for the next difficult task and that being Stephen F. Austin. We're excited to be here and be in preparation for that.

Q. Coach, what differences are there, especially in terms of resources between what you had at New Mexico and what you have access to at UCLA?

COACH ALFORD: Everyplace is different brands, obviously, it's Los Angeles so there is a lot of and I never liked comparing. Every one of my stops that I've had I've been blessed and very fortunate. Now that I've been in it 23 years people like to forget I started in division 3 and I always hate when they omit that, because my time at Manchester college was the best and it was very special. I had great teams. We were able to start a program basically start a program, had five winning seasons and we were able to go to the championship team against Bo Ryan's, that was a special place and you're not looking at a very big budget there and yet we were able to change the culture and going from Missouri State to Iowa, to New Mexico and those are all junctures in my life where I learned about coaching at every stop and I hope that I was able to help the culture in all those stops at some point.

I'm trying to do the same thing at UCLA, but the brand and who UCLA is about, it's obviously a very special brand. There is not another place in the country that hangs 11 National Champion banners, there is not another place in the country that has an icon legend like John Wooden that's done that much for basketball on and off the court and a bar that's raised like that. We had our 100th practice and we had NBA scouts at 88 of them. And I don't know another college in the country that has had that. We want to establish our brand as an exciting style of play and a championship style of play because I think that's where the bar has been put at UCLA years ago.

Q. Coach, can you talk about the difficulties in preparing for an opponent that you might not have seen much of during the year with a day's notice?

COACH ALFORD: Right, even so much not seeing them a lot, what's difficult about it is one I know they're well coached and they haven't lost since Thanksgiving. Actually their last loss was my birthday, by Coach Murry Bartow who is a good friend of mine at East Tennessee State. That's a long time. The scary part is on one day prep you're preparing for somebody that they don't know anything but winning and that's a great credit their coaching staff and players. You've got a culture in that locker room that hasn't experienced any kind of loss until late since late November. So that's a very difficult team to prepare for regardless of what you're going to try to do offensively and defensively. I think this is a really tough group. It looks like it's a fun team to coach, similar to what I have in my locker room but it's a team that's got seniors to it, three of the 8, 9 man rotation are going to be seniors, another one is a junior, so they're experienced. I think there is a culture of winning there and they've taken it to the next level of winning this year and it's a dangerous team. I think they execute things so well both offensively and defensively. They make you guard, they don't beat themselves, they don't turn the ball over a lot and at the other end they make it hard for you to run an offense because of the way they defend. It's a difficult task for us in just one day of prep.

Q. You mentioned how you learned something at every juncture in your coaching career. What did you learn at New Mexico that prepared you for this job?

COACH ALFORD: We played at a very high level. To win at the level that we won, we were there six years. I think we won three tournament two tournament championships, three league championships, we were over 22 wins in every year, we were in postseason every year. So we had bits and pieces of that at Missouri State and Iowa, but the consistency of a six year stretch, really being at a high level year in, year out, I hope that's what's prepared me for UCLA. That's what you need to be at UCLA. You can't be good one out of every four years. You gotta be relevant every year. That's the culture that we know is established and been established at UCLA, that's the culture that we want to continue at UCLA.

Q. Building on the first question I had about preparing for this opponent on a quick turn around how do you parse through what you retain and what's necessary to you to know about the opponent versus when you let trickle down to the players.

COACH ALFORD: Very good, and that is, you know, coaches have already got a lot on their mind but as we go to practice here this afternoon and we go through walk throughs and talk about our offense it will be about two, three, four points of each. We're not going to change who we are. We're not going to try to reinvent anything here. As we get to the round of 32, we are who we are. Our identity is who we are, and now we just got to be really good at it. Your identity is one thing but when you get to this part of the season it's not about changing your identity it's being really good at who you are. We know we're going to have to do that tomorrow afternoon. If we're really good we will give ourselves a chance. If we're not good at doing what we do at both ends of the floor then we will get beat, it's that simple. I think most teams you probably say that about most teams this time of year. March is about being at your best, it's not about creating a new identity. It's about understanding who you are and now go do it as well as you can and that's what we're going to have to do tomorrow.

Q. Coach, coaches move on all the time but when you see that New Mexico loss do you have emotions attached to seeing that having known so many of those players?

COACH ALFORD: Absolutely! I'm still very tied to them because that's my associate head coach got the job, all of my assistants but one stayed, Duane Broussard came with me so all of those assistants, except what Craig hired under me and trained under me and all those players were ours. I've seen every game that didn't mirror our times. I got to watch that game yesterday. I got to see most of that game before we I think we had a pregame meal that might have interrupted a little bit of it so I talk to Coach Neal just about every day and talk to the players. They had a tremendous year. Tough seed with everything they did this year, you look at RPI and the success they had, that was a tough seed to get a first round draw against a big, Stanford team. I thought in our league obviously Arizona and ourselves had maybe the better seasons in league but starting fives, the Stanford, that starting five for Stanford is very good, not a deep team but the Stanford five is very good. I thought it was a tough seed but what a terrific year. 27 games plus again, they win a championship again, those kids that are there, those young men, rather, that are there. I think Kendall Williams has now been a part and Cam Barstow, those are the seniors, I think they've been a part of almost six championships and you only get eight in a four year career when it comes to league play. Incredible career, All Time winningest Lobos, so I'm happy and pleased for them.

Q. You mentioned the brand UCLA how it's different than any other brand you've coached with. Did you change your style or anything about your coaching when you came to UCLA? Also, did the tournament your first tournament game feel different as a UCLA coach?

COACH ALFORD: Yeah, each time it feels a little bit different just because of what your team is. I've said it before, I thought last year's New Mexico team, I hate the word "overachieving" because I don't believe in that, but we played really well, wrapped up a league championship a week before the season was over, rolled through the conference tournament so we were playing at a high level but if you look at that team it was still the only two seniors we had came off the bench, there was no senior in the starting lineup. This was the year we thought would be the big year and now Tony Snell ends up leaving for the NBA draft and he's had a tremendous rookie season, even with that we had an awful lot of that nucleus coming back. We thought this would be the targeted year ask they had another phenomenal season so it worked out great. This year's team we didn't know exactly what we had at UCLA but we knew we had a lot of talent. There is a lot of NBA talent on this team. I don't think it's I've changed my style as much as it's we're able to do more things, a little more open from the standpoint we're running because we have those type of players. We can get up and down the floor, we can run and play at a high tempo to whether it was a New Mexico team or other teams that might not be as deep, might have to be a bit more ball controlled and in New Mexico we were inside presence more. If you look at the wear twins, those are stretch 4's that run like crazy, they're athletic, they can shoot the basketball, Tony Parker is going to end up being a basket to back basket player and he's developing daily. Post guards, which is different, but the style hasn't changed much but opening it up with a high level of athlete.

Q. You know, you mentioned you took over a D3 program and there are so many coaches that would rather go behind the bench of a high level program. What was it that made you do that?

COACH ALFORD: That was the only option I had, I got released from the Sacramento Kings my fifth year in, right at Halloween and my dad was a high school coach and I was volunteering for him for about six weeks and if you know what volunteer means it means no pay. So I went from the NBA to no pay, and then mid December President Robinson called me from Manchester and basically offered me the job. The coach there had quit, they were 0 8 and that coach quit so you had a team that didn't have a coach mid season and I was volunteering for my dad and, you know, the irony behind that is my dad gave me a whistle and I don't use a whistle much many practice and he gave me a book by John Wooden on perimeter success and that was the opportunity I had. There are a lot of guys that go the assistant route and I probably would have. I had no idea being out of the league six weeks, a collegiate job would open. I always knew I wanted to be a college coach, versus high school, where I was 24/7 basketball so when that opportunity came, even though it was a team that was 0 8 it was too good to be true. So that's how I got my start and why I couldn't think of a better start. I got a group of terrific young men at a great university. I got to learn about coaching in those four years a lot where you don't have TV shows, radio shows, I got to learn and make mistakes along the way and learn from that but being able to coach a great group of young men, that was fun!

Q. Maybe no player on this team seems to have improved on a year to year basis than Norman Powell. He seems to have regained his confidence. Did you see the type of play that he's had over the last few weeks and over the course of the season when you got there or did you have to mine that out of him?

COACH ALFORD: Glen Worley played for me at the University of Iowa and he's in San Diego now and a dear friend of Norman's, he was around Norman when he was a high school player at Lincoln so Glen was one of the first guys I called because I wanted him to pass on how excited I was to have the opportunity to coach Norman, and I was able to follow him because we recruit Southern California at New Mexico so I was always in gyms and AAU circles where I got to see Norman play a lot. Norman when you look at him he's an extreme athlete. Not only does he play above the rim, he's strong, physical, he gets to the basket quick, he's a great driver. He's got big hands and he can really guard. I think he's improved in a lot of areas. Not only his minutes having up but offensively his production has gone up. He's a double figure scorer. You talk about Kyle and Jordan, but and you should, but Norman has been a huge key for our success this year because sometimes people forget about him and he can hurt you, just like he did last night.

Q. Your last year at Manchester college you had a team that won 31 straight and now you go up against a team that hasn't lost since November, 29 straight, from your perspective, what about a team changes that mentality and those drives to consistently win?

COACH ALFORD: That team years ago that team got better and tougher and we had a couple of games similar to last night when VCU had 'em beat two or three times in the last 5 minutes and they found ways to win and my Manchester team was like that. We had two or three games where we had no business winning the game but it had nothing to do with coaching, those guys on the floor, they just knew how to win ask they believed in themselves. When you have a culture of winning, that's what happens. You don't understand anything else so you don't accept anything else, regardless of the ebb and flow of a basketball game. You give up a run here, a rebound here, you just don't ever believe you're going to loose the game so you find outweighs of winning, whether it's making shots, getting a defensive stop, making a free throws, a block out, whatever, you find a way to do that and I think you're seeing that in this Stephen F. Austin team, they find ways to win. To be able to win especially the parity at the Division I level and to be able to win every game since the 23rd of November, that's that's an amazing feat in and of itself. They got a lot to be proud of and they definitely got respect of us going into tomorrow's game.

Q. Coach, the most memorable shot of this tournament happened before you guys were taking the floor, were you able to get caught up in it?

COACH ALFORD: Yeah, the coaches anyway, because they're waiting, the players are in the locker room and I think we were in an illegal room we weren't supposed to be in, the door was unlocked so I'm not sure we were supposed to be in there but they had great snacks and drinks and big TV screens so it was a nice holding area for us as coaches so we got to watch the end of that, phenomenal ending, down 4 inside 10 seconds and it's just finding a way to win. It's one thing to shoot that shot, get hit, get fouled, make the shot, then go to the free throw line knowing you have to make the free throw, those aren't easy plays and I think that's what's impressive about this team we're about ready to play. They make great plays, they play well together and they're an unselfish group and a tough minded group. It's going to be a tough match up.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Thank you.

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