Steve Alford may have a goose bump or 20 on Wednesday when he walks onto the court at Pauley Pavilion for his first official game as head coach of the UCLA Bruins.
Alford’s been in emotional situations before.
He used to routinely play in front of crowds of 10,000 in high school in Indiana and led the Indiana Hoosiers to the 1987 NCAA national championship when he scored 23 points against Syracuse. Oh, and there was an Olympic gold medal for Alford in 1984 when his college coach, Bob Knight, chose the 19-year-old sophomore for the team. He averaged 10.3 points and was second in assists so it wasn’t as if he didn’t belong.
But on Wednesday night, when Alford leads UCLA onto the court for an exhibition game against Cal State San Bernardino, he said he expected strong emotions.
“I’ll have to wait and see what that feeling will be,” Alford said Monday. “But one of my close friends is Murry Bartow (son of the late Gene Bartow, the coach who followed John Wooden at UCLA in 1975), and he was a ball boy under his father. He said that the feeling you get when you walk down the hall at Pauley Pavilion and the door opens and you’re on the court, it’s a feeling of awe. It will be a humbling experience. It will be a step above anything I’ve felt before. I’ll be the head basketball coach at UCLA.”