War Criminal: Steve Alford

12:00 AM | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Growing up, I was a huge Iowa Hawkeye basketball fan. My earliest memories are of those spectacular Hawkeye teams in the 80's with the likes of Roy Marble, Ed Horton, B.J. Armstrong, Brad Lohaus, Jeff Moe and such. The coach leading them was Dr. Tom Davis. The Hawks were perennial favorites in the Big Ten throughout Dr. Tom's tenure and he proved successful at getting his team into the tourney just about every year. But by the late 90's, some were beginning to grow tired of Dr. Tom. While the constant tourney bids were nice, the Hawks weren't getting beyond the second round and many felt that it was time for a change. So at the end of the 98/99 season, Iowa chose not to renew his contract.

Enter Steve Alford, Indiana legend and member of the Pat Riley Hair Club for Men. Alford was coming off a nice season at Southwest Missouri State where he led the Bears to a Sweet 16 appearance that year. There was a buzz of excitement in Iowa that hadn't been there in a while. Things were surely going to take a turn for the best, and when they opened their first game the following season with a 70-68 victory over the defending National Champion UConn Huskies, I was firmly on board the Alford train.

One problem. The train was heading the wrong direction.

That UConn win was the highest point, at least for me, during the entire Alford tenure at Iowa. As Hawk fans remember, that first season was pretty lousy as Iowa finished 14-16, their first losing season since 93/94. Things picked up in year two for Alford. Despite only a 7-9 conference record that season, the Hawkeyes ran the table in the Big Ten tourney and won the automatic bid, earning a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. Iowa would win their first round game against 10 seed Creighton before losing to 2 seed Kentucky. This would be first and last time Alford's Hawkeyes would win an NCAA tourney game.

After that the wheels really started to come loose. In 2002, Iowa star player Pierre Pierce was charged with sexual assault. He ended up with what amounted to a slap on the hand from the law and when he only received essentially a red-shirt as punishment from the team, it was a slap in the face to the fans and the school. Many, wanting Pierce removed from the team completely were not happy and felt Alford's handling of the matter was piss poor at best. The integrity and class that Dr. Tom ran the Iowa program with had vanished. To make Alford and the school look even more foolish was that model-citizen Pierce would run into trouble with the law again in early 2005. This time he was being charged with a slew of crimes including sexual abuse, burglary, and false imprisonment. Alford dismissed his leading scorer from the team, a move that should've been done three years earlier. Pierce spent just under a year in prison and now has to register as a sex offender. Still under probation, a judge denied his request to leave the state to pursue an NBA career.

Not that Pierce made much of a difference anyway. The three years following their 2001 tourney appearance saw the Hawkeyes only able to earn bids to the NIT, which was rather unfamiliar territory for Hawk fans before Alford came to town. It wasn't even until the 03/04 season that Alford was able to put together a winning record in Big Ten play.

Somewhere between their lucky late season run in 2001, the Pierce debacle, and their return back to the tournament I had gone from rooting for Iowa to general indifference. With his pompous arrogance, and lackluster coaching to back it up, Steve Alford had essentially ruined a team I used to love. When they entered the 2006 tournament with a 3 seed and their best season yet under Alford, I not only didn't care, I openly cheered for Northwestern State and was happy to see them nail the buzzer-beater, bouncing the Hawkeyes in the first round. This past season I took pleasure in watching Iowa lose over and over again. Anything to get Al"fraud" out of Iowa was good to me. Shortly after the season ended, the news I was hoping for came. Alford was leaving for New Mexico.

Amazingly there are still folks out there that liked Alford as Iowa's coach. For those folks I offer you the following facts and stats.

  • In 8 seasons Alford was 152-105 with Iowa (.591 winning percentage)
  • In 13 seasons Davis was 269-140 with Iowa (.658 winning percentage)

  • Alford had 3 NIT bids and 3 NCAA bids (winning only once in the NCAA tourney)
  • Davis had 2 NIT bids and 9 NCAA bids (never losing a single first round game in the NCAA tourney)

  • Alford had 3 seasons out of 8 with a .500 or better record in the Big Ten
  • Davis had 11 seasons out of 13 with a .500 or better record in the Big Ten

  • Number of NBA Draft Picks during Alford's tenure = 0
  • Number of NBA Draft Picks during Davis' tenure = 12 (Brad Lohaus, Kevin Gamble, Jeff "The Vanilla Gorilla" Moe, B.J. Armstrong, Roy Marble, Ed Horton, Les Jepsen, Acie Earl, Russ Millard, Ricky Davis, Ryan Bowen, J.R. Koch)

To be fair with the draft picks, the rise in high school and international picks does play a little bit of a factor. But even Iowa State managed to have a few guys get drafted during Alford's time. The most he has to show for having a former Iowa player in the NBA is everyone's favorite nut-grabber, Reggie Evans.

So bring on the Todd Lickliter Era. It's been rough for me the last few years, but with this deserved war criminal finally exiled to Lobo country, I can finally end my self-imposed boycott of Iowa basketball and once again enjoy the team I grew up with.

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