Son Knows Best
With his dad's help, Steve Alford is finding success on the bench
Blizzard '96 blues
Marcus Camby's scare
Things were looking pretty bleak for the Southwest Missouri State Bears when they came to their bench at Illinois State last Thursday trailing 63-50 with just 7:33 left to play on a frigid night in Normal, Ill. Steve Alford, the former Indiana star who is now the coach of the Bears, gathered his assistants and said, "I think it's time we try some zone. We aren't stopping them at all in man."
One of the assistant coaches wasn't so certain. "Are you sure, Coach?" he asked. "Man is still our best defense."
"It isn't tonight," Alford said, stepping into the huddle to talk to his players.
The exchange was unremarkable in most ways—a head coach listening to a suggestion from an assistant and deciding to go with his own instincts—except for one thing: The assistant coach whose advice was rejected was Alford's father, Sam, who taught Steve how to play basketball and was his high school coach.
"The only time he calls me Dad these days is when he needs a babysitter," Sam Alford said with a laugh the next day. "More often than not, though, when he rejects my counsel on the bench, he's right."
The zone didn't save the Bears that night, though it did help them cut the margin to five late in the game. Even so, their coach was less than pleased after the 86-79 loss. "We didn't score a single point off a screen all night," Alford said. "In the first half we had no offense; in the second we had no defense. We only let them score 58 points [in the second half]. We aren't tough enough yet to win a game like this."
Shut your eyes, throw in a few profanities, and you might think you were listening to Alford's college coach, Bob Knight. Tell Alford that, and he laughs at the notion.
"I think I'm a little gentler than he is," said Alford. "But as far as coaching is concerned, I learned an awful lot from him. Almost everything I do, even the pregame meal [spaghetti, regardless of the time of day], comes from my days at Indiana."