Steve Alford Fired At UCLA; Eric Musselman Will Be In Consideration
Nevada will have to sweat it out on Muss’ status
The Bruins will make contact at some point.
UCLA has fired head coach Steve Alford after an abysmal start to this season. This opens up one of the more historic jobs in the country.
Yes, the Bruins program is still one of the best in the country as they have made a trio of Sweet 16 appearances this decade with Alford, and under Ben Howland — who the school fired after winning a conference title — went to three straight Final Fours between 2004-2006 including a title game appearance in ’06.
Alford did have some success after leaving New Mexico for Westwood but this season has been a disaster with a 7-6 record and losing four straight which includes losses to Liberty and Belmont. Even when the Bruins play good teams they were blown out.
With one of the most high-profile jobs open in college basketball, and at midseason, the search will be wide and far for the next UCLA head coach.
Of course, Nevada’s Eric Musselman’s name has popped up as a potential candidate. He has been a stud at Nevada so far through three-plus years in Reno where he has 94 wins to date and each year the team has gotten better from CBI title, NCAA Tournament appearance to a Sweet 16 berth last season.
Musselman has won games built mostly on transfer talent to come to town and he has shown recruiting prowess by inking former five-star Jordan Brown straight out of high school.
UCLA is a different beast and first, all of there are more stringent academic standards than most schools in the country and that will make building a quick fix via the transfer market very tough. It will take a lot of recruiting work and development to turn around the Bruins.
However, the good news for Wolf Pack fans right now is that while nearly every college basketball reporter notes Musselman as a possibility, he is not considered one of the leaders for the job.
Below is what other publications have said about Musselman and his chances, and it should be noted that former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg is the early front-runner.
Musselman would of course listen if UCLA called: it’s UCLA. He’s traveled a path more varied than almost anyone in college coaching at this point, and hasn’t stayed in one place longer than four seasons in the past 21 years. The 54-year-old Musselman is 94-29 as a college coach, all games with the Wolf Pack. If Nevada winds up dominating in Mountain West, the iron will probably never be hotter for him.
Muss has it rolling out in Nevada right now, but I’ve been told that he’s down the list of candidates for UCLA – if he’s even on the list at all. Musselman has bounced around and reinvented himself recently in the college ranks, but he’s done it with primarily transfers — and that, along with his intense personality, have some worried that it’s not the right fit at UCLA.
He undoubtedly would jump at the UCLA job, but where he falls on the Bruins’ list remains unclear. Musselman has done a terrific job with the Wolf Pack, leading them to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and a Sweet 16 appearance last season. Nevada is currently sitting among the top 10 nationally at 13-0. Like Hoiberg, Musselman has done it mostly via the transfer market, but he did land McDonald’s All American Jordan Brown in the 2018 class. He will be a hot candidate for a number of openings this spring.
Pros: Speaking of failed NBA coaches, there’s Eric Musselman. The biggest pro for Musselman has been how he’s reinvented himself since taking over as Nevada head coach in 2015. The Wolf Pack have won at least 24 games in each year since Musselman took over, winning the Mountain West conference twice (and MWC tournament once), and advancing to the Sweet 16 last year.
Cons: You know how in the Hoiberg profile, I mentioned that there wasn’t a lot to go on because he has not coached in college for a long period of time? That goes double for Musselman, who is only in his 4th season as a collegiate head coach. To be fair, Musselman at least has a longer coaching resume, but it’s hard to feel too confident about the smaller college head coach length.
None of this means that Musselman may not be the head coach and one key reason is that UCLA is well-known for not paying its basketball coach on par for what the school wants in return, or what its peers in the Pac-12 earn.
Alford did take home $2.6 million which is third in the Pac-12 among tournament teams and 23rd overall in that same category. That amount of money may not entice high-end coaches but for Musselman, that same $2.6 million would more than double his $1 million salary that he is pulling in from Nevada.
At the early stages it seems that Musselman is safe from UCLA.