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UCLA's Steve Alford Addresses the Media on Friday

Jan 3, 2014


UCLA head coach Steve Alford met with members of the media prior to practice in Pauley Pavilion on Friday afternoon. The Bruins’ head coach spoke about UCLA’s upcoming game against USC, his past experiences with rivalry games and what he likes about the Bruins’ team heading into Pac-12 play.

UCLA’s game on Sunday will be nationally televised by Fox Sports 1 and is also available on the radio locally on AM 570 (KLAC). The game is slated to begin at 12 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA will play its next three games at home – versus USC (Jan. 5), Arizona (Jan. 9) and Arizona State (Jan. 12) – before hitting the road to face Colorado and Utah.

Steve Alford’s quotes from Friday afternoon
on USC’s pace and style of play
“It’s nothing that we have not seen. They are a big basketball team, so they are going to post you a lot more than we have had to deal with in the past, in terms of teams we have played. They have athletic guards that like to get up and down the floor, and that kind of thing. As you look at the numbers, it’s not anything that we haven’t played against.”

on which teams USC compares to this season
“Alabama is a good test, just because they have very athletic guards with that big guy in the middle. I thought that we did a good job with Alabama’s big. This big might be better. But, they have a really good post presence with guards who are athletic and like to play in transition. They do a good job of driving the basketball.”

on UCLA sophomore Tony Parker
“We just hope that Tony keeps doing what he’s doing. He’s now 13 games into the sophomore season. He did not play a lot last year, so this is somewhat like a freshman season. He just keeps getting better every game. That’s what we need for him to do. Regardless of whether it’s good bigs or guards, it’s always going to be a team effort from us. It’s going to be good guard play across the board, and we have good guys up front playing the role that they’ve got to play. And right now, Tony is doing a very good job.”

on his experience with rivalries
“It does not get much bigger than Indiana and Purdue. You’re talking about two elite basketball programs. I was a part of that. With high schools, the gym that I played in seated 10,000 and the smallest gym in our league was 6,500. So, we had a lot of bigtime rivals with Richmond High School and Muncie Central and Anderson. Rivals, it’s a great part of basketball. I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of a lot of them. Not just playing, but also coaching. Being at Iowa – the Iowa and Iowa State rivalry is great. At New Mexico, you’ve got New Mexico and New Mexico State. That is a really cool rivalry because you get to play each other twice. With most rivalries, you do not get a chance to do that. With this rivalry, you’ve got two schools that are separated by 11 or 12 or 13 miles and both are in the city of Los Angeles. So, that brings another uniqueness to the rivalry.”

on what makes rivalries fun
“Every game is fun for me, and that’s what I tried to do as a player. That’s what I try to do as a coach. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing it. We don’t put any more emphasis on one game, nor do we put any more emphasis on our rival games versus what would be considered a non-rival game. Each game is very important. You saw that in the first night of Pac-12. You battle like crazy to hold serve at home. You then go try and steal road wins, and that’s not easy, particularly in the Pac-12. It’s a top five conference in the country. You’re seeing that in the very first week of our games. We have to wait all the away until Sunday to play. It’s going to be a dogfight. We have to play very well through 40 minutes to hold serve at home.”

on comments made by USC about the rivalry
“It has zero to do with how we approach Sunday’s game.”

on freshman Zach LaVine
“He’s just very athletic. He’s one of those special talents who can create his own shot. He is a great ball-handler and a great shooter. He really runs in transition. He’s got a very high skill and talent level. Now as a freshman, he’s just learning going from high school to college that transition of dealing with a shot clock and you are playing against bigger, older guys, quicker and faster guys. The game just gets quicker and faster. Those things aren’t going to affect Zach as much as just understanding and learning what I can do now at this level and trying to translate that to scouting reports where you have game tapes and those types of things. It’s a little bit more intense and a little bit more in-depth at this level. And then the next level gets even more so. He is very coachable. These guys are learning, getting better. They are sponges. Zach is a great worker. He works on his game a lot. He wants to continue to get better, so he knows that he is not a finished product. He’s got a lot of neat things that have started this process for him. But, his ceiling is really high because he’s just now really learning a lot of the ins and outs of basketball at both ends.”

on holding a greater importance to this rivalry
“I don’t know that our ambition is to create rivalries. It’s to create a culture of winning. And there has obviously been a tremendous culture here of winning. As a new program, that’s just what we are trying to instill. We’re making sure that we win the Los Angeles-based games. That’s important. Making sure that we can go on the road and win at other buildings. That’s important. And taking care of Pauley. Those are all things that are going to be very important. It just keeps getting us better as a basketball team. But putting any onus on one game being more important than the other – this game is very important to us because it’s our opener in league play. This league is going to be very tough. If you lose home games, it makes it really difficult on you because the road wins are going to be really difficult to get. It’s a very important game to us because it’s our next game. If this were Colorado or Utah, I would be saying the same thing. Do we understand the rivalry? Do we understand that it’s two schools based in the city of Los Angeles? Sure. We understand all that. But as soon as we get past Sunday, Arizona becomes the next most important game and then after that, Arizona State and then Colorado and then Utah. It just goes that way. I just hope our guys can prepare for each game like it’s the most important game.”

on impressions of Andy Enfield's work at Florida Gulf Coast and USC
“I didn’t see anything on Florida Gulf Coast until some clips in the NCAA Tournament. I really didn’t see a whole game, but I saw some clips. As far as this year goes, like all of our teams, we really respect our opponent. They are doing a very nice job. They got a really big win at Dayton. That was a very impressive road win. They’ve done a very good job at home. So, we are playing well. We’re riding some pretty good momentum into this game and so are they. It has all the makings for a really good basketball game.”

on comments made by USC about UCLA’s style of play
“I didn’t have anything to do with that. That was not my hype. I didn’t have anything to do with the hype of fast play or slow play. We just do what we do. I’ve been very impressed with what we have been able to do. We are number one in this conference in assist-turnover. We are top 10 in the country in about three or four offensive categories. We are taking care of the basketball, valuing it, assisting baskets, shooting percentage, points scored. We have gotten out of the gate, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way, very well offensively. I think our defense is coming. As we continue to improve in both of those areas, I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team.”

on starting with three consecutive home games in Pac-12 play
“You have to play them. I’ve been in a league that was cool where it mirrored each other. You played everybody once in the first part of the season, everybody next in the next part of the season. Home and away was even. You played eight and eight. Now with 12 teams, you’ve got an unbalanced schedule. We only play the Arizonas once, and we only play the Washingtons once. It’s unbalanced to begin with, so you just have to take it one game at a time and try to make the most out of that. We have our bye week at the first. Do you want a bye week three weeks in? Who knows? That’s just the way the computer kind of feeds out your schedule. We have to make sure that we get out of the gate quickly. We are healthy. So, you always want bye weeks and you want home games and you want to be healthy. And right now we are. We have a couple more practices to get through, but right now we are healthy going into Pac-12 play.”

on whether he thinks the college game is trending toward an up-tempo style of play
“No, I think that’s hype. I think that’s hype. I think one of the best teams that I’ve seen so far this season is Wisconsin. And they’re not doing that. They beat Northwestern at Northwestern by 27 the other day. So, you’ve got a lot of teams that have different styles. Michigan State is a tremendous team that has a different style. We have teams in our league that have different styles. You’ve got Oregon, who is scoring nearly 90 a game, and you’ve got Arizona, who is holding teams to 25. I think that is all, to me, it’s hype, and it’s about understanding your system and teaching your system the best you can. Do your players buy in? Do your players play hard? Do your players play unselfish? And then, obviously, are you fun to watch? Are you entertaining? And I think that this basketball team is yes to all those things.”

on taking any personal satisfaction in UCLA’s successful style of play
“I’ve said before, this is the first time that I’ve had a chance to be at a level like this. These are elite athletes. These are elite players. [At New Mexico] Our worst offensive possessions type of team was last year and we won 29 games at New Mexico. We just had to take on a different look. We didn’t buy in to having to play this style. It’s what is your team like? Last year’s New Mexico team was not a good shooting team. It hung its hat on the defensive end. We grinded out games in the last five minutes. We have had 13 games thus far and 13 games where we have only really had two games, maybe, that came down to the last two or three minutes. The style of this team dictates a little different level. But for five seasons prior to last season at New Mexico, we were one or two in offense in every category in our league. And our league was ranked as a top-five league in the country all five of those years. I think it’s just a matter of understanding your system and being as good as you possibly can be at it.”

on helping young centers improve
“They just have to get experience. Whether you are a big man or a guard, they just have to get experience. Tony [Parker] is starting to get that experience. He went from playing four and a half minutes last year. Now, he’s almost tripled or quadrupled those numbers. I think he’s right around 20 minutes a game now. He’s starting to get more confident. He still has things that he needs to work on, and he knows that. He’s starting to make strides. He worked awfully hard in the offseason to get his weight down. That has helped with his momentum of playing longer minutes. And now he is starting to learn as he plays against different bigs. He’s starting to learn how to play against those bigs, and he’s got a very good one in [Omar] Oraby who he’s got to go against on Sunday.”