It's been well over a week since UCLA hired Steve Alford as its head basketball coach and, despite this, no one is quite sure what to make of the hire.
While many have accepted the fact that he's made New Mexico a hegemon within its conference, it's also well-known that his NCAA tournament success is anything but. While he ran a clean program at UNM for the six years he was there, he also was embroiled in a rape controversy at Iowa in which he defended a tried-and-true rapist.
Of course, we can't change what you think of the man's morals and we have reservations about his integrity as well. But that's not something we can operationalize easily, not something we can measure definitively.
Instead, let's look at Alford's resume the best way we know how. With numbers.
The number of wins by a tournament team following a win over New Mexico in the NCAAs. While much has been made about Alford's tournament failures, what's perhaps most striking is that Alford loses to teams that get bounced out rather early. Since 1999, only the 2011-12 Louisville squad went on to win another game after beating New Mexico in the tournament. It's not as if the Lobos under Alford consistently lost to world-beaters; in fact, they've lost to some pretty bad teams in the tournament, and perhaps this is why his tournament resume is so disconcerting.
New Mexico's average offensive efficiency over the past three years. This would put them at No. 55 in the nation according to teamrankings.com, and it's fair to note that New Mexico had its worst offensive efficiency in 2012-13. This number could be flawed due to the fact that it was derived from the offensive efficiencies of each of the past three seasons (as opposed to gathering the total possessions in the past three years, which seems impossible). Still, it's clear that Alford's New Mexico teams are not powerhouses offensively, and while you didn't need me to tell you that, we may need to tell UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who believes Alford is some sort of offensive mastermind.
The defensive efficiency of Alford's Lobos the past three years. This provides the best evidence that New Mexico was a defense-first team under Alford, and the marks are rather respectable, much more so than their offensive efficiency numbers in relative terms. UNM ranked 38th in defensive efficiency in 2012-13, fifth in 2011-12, and 84th in 2010-11. While those aren't elite numbers, they're better than what UCLA's defensive efficiency was in each of those three seasons.
New Mexico's assist/turnover ratio the past three years under Steve Alford. The Lobos consistently take care of the ball under Alford, and have been ranked No. 30 in the nation the past two years in assist/turnover ratio. Save for 2012-13, New Mexico also has had a better assist/turnover ratio than UCLA has had. A sign of discipline is perhaps best described by this number, and so it's fair to assume that Alford has done well in making sure his players aren't doing stupid things with the ball.
UNM's rebounding rate in the past three years. Alford's team took quite a nose-dive in the rebounding rate department in 2012-13, earning just 51.6 percent of all available rebounds. Prior to that, the Lobos ranked in the top-25 for three years straight in rebounding percentage, and ranked ahead of UCLA in that category each of the past four seasons. This is a rather good sign, considering UCLA has three big men that are almost incapable of earning a rebound.
The numbers don't definitively say whether or not Alford is a good hire, and they likely never well. Indeed, Alford's offensive prowess is seriously lacking, and his teams have performed unimpressively with the ball in their hands. Meanwhile, his defenses are consistently stingy and his teams are pretty disciplined in a lot of areas. Statistically, Alford's Lobos have been much better than UCLA has been the past few seasons under Ben Howland.
What's also pretty weird is that, while 2012-13 saw the Lobos have one of their best seasons under Alford, the team took quite the statistical drop-off in a number of areas. This is likely a function of the team losing three seniors, who combined to earn 65 minutes a game, including Drew Gordon, a UCLA transfer that wound up becoming the best player on the team. Given that they did lose such key pieces, a 29-win season is nothing to scoff at. (But a loss to 14-seeded Harvard is.)
We'll let you decide for yourself: Is Steve Alford the coach you want heading the UCLA program, based on the numbers?