Steve Alford, Andy Enfield enliven L.A. rivalry
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — It’s been only a few months, but the Battle for Los Angeles is on.
Technically, its seeds were planted months ago, back when both UCLA and Southern California found themselves seeking flashy, big-name hires to fill their head coaching vacancies. USC tapped Andy Enfield, the maestro of the high-flying, dunk-happy Florida Gulf Coast team that became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. UCLA hired Steve Alford, who had brought New Mexico back to national relevance in recent years.
Both coaches promised exciting, up-tempo basketball. Both coaches said they’d make it a priority to recruit Los Angeles, a talent-rich region.
Then, Jordan McLaughlin, one of the area’s top-rated point guards, committed to USC in September, choosing it over a group of elite schools that included UCLA.
“It really caught my attention what they’re trying to do with the new coaching staff,” McLaughlin said in announcing his decision, according to the Los Angeles Times. “USC was the perfect fit.
Earlier this month, Enfield fanned the flames of the increasingly heated rivalry when he told his players during practice: “We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.”
Circle the dates these teams will play this season — at UCLA on Jan. 5 and at USC on Feb. 18. They’ll surely be among the most anticipated in the long-standing rivalry.
Alford seeks discipline
Alford’s new office in Westwood sits a floor above the athletic department’s shrine to legendary coach John Wooden, who won 10 national championships at UCLA.
It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of the history, prestige and expectations that come with this gig. Alford calls it “a dream come true.”
To make that dream come true, Alford first had to leave New Mexico. He took the UCLA job March 30, just 10 days after he’d signed a 10-year extension with the Lobos, which resulted in a predictable backlash.
Then Los Angeles did not exactly welcome Alford with open arms. Local news media questioned the hire. And at Alford’s introductory news conference, reporters brought up his fervent defense of a player accused of sexual … [For more on New leaders Steve Alford, Andy Enfield enliven L.A. rivalry, click here.]