UCLA has fired coach Steve Alford, according to multiple reports.
Officials at UCLA have not responded to ESPN’s request for comment. An official announcement is expected Monday.
Alford was in charge of the Bruins for 5 1/2 seasons, leading them to four NCAA tournaments and three Sweet 16 appearances. This season, however, UCLA struggled mightily in nonconference play; the Bruins are just 7-6 after losing their past four games. Things hit rock bottom on Saturday, when UCLA lost at home by 15 points to Liberty.
“This might be one of the most disappointing games I’ve had,” Alford said after the Liberty loss. “Trying to reflect back throughout 28 years, and the word disappointment of just our team and how we performed. I don’t know the last time I was this disappointed in a team. It did not look like us at any level, as far as how we prepped, how we practiced, how we watched film, things that we’ve done. The execution was extremely poor at both ends. Just very disappointed in how we played.”
After an 80-66 loss to Ohio State earlier this month, Alford said he had “no issue” with the constant discussions about his job and that “I’m a man of God, so I’ve got an audience of one.”
“You know, obviously with its fans, whether it be at UCLA or anywhere else, you always have those opinions,” he told reporters.
Alford has often been at odds with the UCLA fan base, despite his team’s Sweet 16 appearances. Twice in the past three years, a banner was flown over campus calling for Alford’s firing. In 2016, it read “UCLA deserves better, fire Alford!” while last spring it read, “Final Fours not First Fours #FireAlford.” After a 15-17 season in 2015-16, Alford returned a one-year contract extension and wrote a letter acknowledging his poor performance.
Alford signed another one-year contract extension after the 2016-17 season, an agreement that raised his current buyout to $3.6 million.
Alford, 54, was hired in 2013 after UCLA fired Ben Howland. He had spent the previous six seasons at New Mexico, leading the Lobos to three NCAA tournament appearances. Prior to his time in Albuquerque, Alford was the head coach at Iowa for eight seasons and Southwest Missouri State for four seasons.
A former Indiana high school legend, Alford was a two-time college All-American at Indiana before spending four seasons in the NBA.
UCLA could go a number of ways in its search for Alford’s replacement, with former Chicago Bulls and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, TCU coach Jamie Dixon and former Phoenix Suns coach and UCLA alum Earl Watson among the likely candidates, multiple sources told ESPN.
Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan and Nevada coach Eric Musselman have also been mentioned in connection with the job in the past.