UCLA head coach Steve Alford has experienced March Madness in just about every way possible. He was a starter on the Hoosiers' '87 title team and he's brought small, medium, and large schools to the big dance. In his first year in Westwood, Alford led his Bruins to a 26-8 record, a second place regular season finish in the Pac-12, and a conference tourney title earned with a win over #4 Arizona. Friday, UCLA takes on Tulsa in San Diego for the Round of 64. It will be Alford's eighth appearance as a head coach in the national tournament and he's ready to go.
We asked Alford what he's learned over the years and how that has informed his strategies for this Bruins team. He gave us his six rules for surviving March Madness.
Consistency Is an Impossible Dream
Any team that reaches the tournament has played big games, but even large programs can't pretend March Madness is just another day at the office. Coaches face a choice: close ranks and isolate players as much as possible or let them wade neck-deep into the experience.
ALFORD: "We just try to keep things as consistent as possible. This time of year, your travel party gets bigger, and those types of things. If you're fortunate enough to advance that spotlight gets brighter and brighter, and the distractions and number of people who want a piece of it get greater and greater. We want to make sure the way we've traveled and done things all year long, that it's carried forward. I don't want to all of a sudden change things, from when we shoot, when we eat, and how we prepare film. We're trying to make this as consistent to the guys.
Today it's a lot more difficult to isolate players than it was in the eighties when I played, just because of social media and everything else the kids are involved with. We're allowing – and we've always allowed – our players to use it, but we want in them to be smart because it's a national stage. It's become a lot harder from a coaching standpoint to keep all the distractions away."
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