Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why Alford didn't amount to anything

So Steve Alford is taking his insanely perfect hairdo and his slightly arrogant self-confidence and heading for someplace that isn't, as he puts it, a "football school." If he expected champagne cakes and statewide boo-hooing, it doesn't seem to be happening.

Don't let the screen door hit you on the way out, pally.

Steve Alford has it all when it comes to basketball - every achievement, every honor, every credential that a person could dream of in a basketball mind.

Except for one.

I vividly remember my first - and last - time meeting Steve Alford. He was newly-named as the coach at Iowa, the golden boy, Bob Knight reincarnate, a huge coup for the U, and a legend from his 4-time MVP career at Indiana to the Olympic gold medal to the NBA. I was psyched, baby.

I showed up a little early, and sat Indian style with the 10-year-olds on the floor at the BVU gym. I wanted to see a little of Alford's style before we talked. And so I did.

As he was delivering a rather pretentious and dull lecture clearly not designed for kids of this age, a couple of little boys were innocently elbowing and whispering and laughing just a bit, like kids do when they're having a good time with sports.

Alford pointed to one of the little boys and boomed in front of everyone:

"You - you'll never amount to anything, because you don't know how to listen."

I don't know if anybody else there noticed, but I saw that little boy's face.

It went from excited to crushed in a mili-second as his hero turned on him. Imagine - telling a happy little kid that he was never going to amount to anything.

Whether it was his idea of tough love or his way to command respect for himself, that's a rotten thing to do.

I could care less about Alford's records or his winning perentage, or his million-buck salary. As far as I'm concerned, from that moment on, he could have won the national title for Iowa seven years running and I'd still have less respect for him than for the Carver-Hawkeye janitor.

Unfair? Heck yeah. Making snap judgements of people is a vice to be avoided. A guy can have a bad day and snap at somebody and wish a minute later that he hadn't said it. Words can come out wrong. But every time I've heard Alford's name in the seven seasons that have followed, what has run through my head is that one ringing statement: "You'll never amount to anything," and that one look on that one little boy's face.

I left without doing that interview, and on the occasions when Alford actually was present at his own camp here, I politely turned down invitations to be at any event set up to honor him.

I haven't joined in the Alford-bashing, because it is all related to winning and losing basketball games by Iowa fans who had become pretty spoiled over the years, and my beef with the guy has nothing to do with winning and losing.

Can't say I have much admiration either for the people who put up things like "FireSteveAlford.com" web sites and petitions. They might want to look into getting a life.

I do think there are more important measures of a person than percentages of ballgames won.

I didn't blame Alford for Pierre Pierce, for instances of throwing his players under the bus to save his own reputation, for the recruits that transfered away from Iowa, for not stepping up and using his big image to achieve social good for others in the state that paid him close to $6 million bucks for a grand total of one career NCAA tourney win.

But I do blame him for the look on that kid's face.

For the record, coach, as I recall it, Iowa was a basketball school before you took over. (The football team won 4 games over the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The basketball team was a combined 37-28 and filling the arena. If it stopped being a basketball school since then, who exactly is to blame?)

And for the record, I don't know that little boy's name, but I sure hope he amounts to something absolutely, incredibly freaking wonderful.

And that he laughs and laughs and laughs.


Interesting. Two of our Congressman Steve King's press releases show up on my desk on the same day.

"King Opposes Largest Tax Increase in History," trumpets the first, in big cap letters.

The second says, "King Opposes Surrender in Iraq," the gist of which is that he voted against withdrawing troops from the middle east after four years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One national news source indicates that the cost of U.S. military involvement in Iraq will surpass $1 trillion (not to mention 3,230 American military deaths so far).

King is entitled to his opinion about whether we should remain as an occupying force in Iraq indefinately, and my purpose is not to debate that. He also has every right to posture about the cost of the U.S. budget, which is insane, to put it mildly.

But isn't it just a little hypocritical right now to ignore that these two things are directly related?