Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a UCLA Bruins legend, having won three consecutive national championships with the team while playing under legendary coach John Wooden. However, the Hall of Famer is not a fan of what coach Steve Alford has done with the program in two seasons.
Abdul-Jabbar clarified his statements while appearing on SiriusXM NBA Radio’s NBA Today yesterday, and his words were reported by Diamond Leung of Bay Area News Group.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that Abdul-Jabbar’s words aren’t entirely fair to Alford, UCLA and Alford’s players. The game has changed quite a bit since Abdul-Jabbar was a college player, with recruiting much more competitive than it was back then and tournament success being less about the most dominant team. Just look at the last NCAA Tournament. Kentucky seemed unstoppable, but then ran into a fast and scrappy squad in Wisconsin in the Final Four. At that point, it was less about dominance and more about overall team chemistry. While it’s great to have both at the same time, it’s incredibly rare today on both the collegiate and professional levels.
On top of that, Alford has been with the program for just two years, so he’s probably still cleaning up the mess that former coach Ben Howland left for him. Despite that, he has gone a respectable 50-23 (23-13 Pac-12) since arriving in Westwood and won a Pac-12 Championship in his first season, not to mention has taken the program to the Sweet Sixteen in each of this years while Howland only got the team to the tournament in three of his final five seasons with the Bruins, and never past the Round of 32 at that.
Thus, though Abdul-Jabbar is probably just venting because he’s proud to be a part of the UCLA family and it hurts to see the program struggling even just a little bit, he shouldn’t be so critical of the state of the program, especially since Alford appears to be knocking on the door of a long tourney run in the near future.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports