Steve Alford Gives Back 1-Year UCLA Extension Signed in '14

Joe PantornoFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2016

UCLA head coach Steve Alford yells to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

UCLA men's head basketball coach Steve Alford announced Sunday that he returned the one-year contract extension he signed in 2014.

Here is the letter he sent to UCLA fans explaining his decision, per Bruin Report Online:

The extension Alford signed would have kept him with the school until the end of the 2020-2021 season, per Sports Illustrated's Kenny Ducey. He just completed his third season at UCLA, and it was a tough one to say the least.

After going a combined 50-23 with two trips to the Sweet 16 in the coach's first two years, Alford and UCLA went 15-17, lost in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament and didn't make the postseason.

Giving back that one-year extension may not be enough for some fans, who recently called for Alford to be fired, per Beto Duran of Duran Sports:

Dissatisfaction with Alford's coaching has been going on for some time. UCLA legend and NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized Alford on SiriusXM NBA Radio before the 2015-16 season, via Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg:

It's real ugly, man. I have to say that. I watched them in the playoffs. They don't even know how to run the fast break. You know, I'm not trying to sit on the sidelines and throw stones at Coach Alford. He has a tough job. But people used to learn how to play the game at UCLA. I don't think that's happening now, and I think that's a real disappointment to those of us who are part of the tradition.

UCLA's offense ranked 66th in the nation while its defense ranked 285th, allowing 76.7 points per game. The Bruins showed some promise early in the season, beating Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona. But after an 82-73 victory over Oregon State on Jan. 20, the team lost 10 of its last 13 games to close the season.

It's a steep fall for a program that was once the gold standard of college basketball. This was a school that won 10 national titles in 12 years from 1963-1975. It won another in 1995 and made the Final Four three straight times from 2005-2008.

UCLA will certainly be expected to be much better in 2016-17. Five of the team's top six players from this season—juniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford, sophomores Thomas Welsh and Jonah Bolden and freshman Aaron Holiday—are eligible to return.

Plus, the 2016 recruiting class is ranked fourth in the nation, according to 247Sports' Composite Rankings, and includes 5-star point guard Lonzo Bell and 5-star power forward T.J. Leaf, both top-20 players in their class.

But if that group doesn't mesh or the team continues to play porous defense—and this proud program struggles again like it did during 2015-16—Alford could ultimately find himself giving back more than a one-year contract extension.