Amid the expected fan backlash that pelted UCLA on social media and message boards after its most lopsided defeat in nearly four years came some friendly fire.
Four tweets from a former Bruin point guard suggested that the team’s issues go beyond one rough outing and are reflective of a coaching staff incapable of maximizing its talent.
“We are not very good,” Darrick Martin, who played for UCLA from 1988-92 before spending 13 seasons in the NBA, tweeted after the Bruins’ 93-64 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday. “We are stagnant on offense and we run the most antiquated offense I have ever seen.”
A notable alumnus criticizing his former team so harshly in a public forum is rare. Seven former UCLA players contacted by The Times on Friday either declined to comment when asked about the current state of the team or did not return messages.
One other former player, who was willing to speak, acknowledged being in lockstep with Martin’s views.
Andy Hill, who won three national championships under coach John Wooden and has remained a longtime season ticket-holder, said the Bruins have failed to meet his baseline requirements of improving during the season, competing hard in every game and playing cohesively, which he considered a hallmark of UCLA basketball.
“This team has no leader, no fundamentals, no system, no cohesion and no fight,” Hill, who has attended Bruins games since tickets cost 50 cents for a seat at Santa Monica College, said in a telephone interview. “All I ask is that we be competitive. I’m tired of being told I’m the president of the Irrational Fan Base. I don’t think the standards are irrational; they’re no different than coach Wooden’s. Just get better, will you?”
The Bruins (7-4) appear to be deteriorating based on their recent play. They lost at home to Belmont, a scrappy but small-time outfit out of the Ohio Valley Conference, four days before their 29-point drubbing by Cincinnati. Now it seems as if only an upset over No. 15 Ohio State (10-1) on Saturday afternoon at the United Center is capable of relieving the mounting pressure on coach Steve Alford.
UCLA did not make its coaches or players available Thursday or Friday and athletic director Dan Guerrero declined to comment through an athletic department official.
Reached by telephone Friday, Martin said not much has changed since he served as UCLA’s radio analyst three years ago, during Alford’s third season with the Bruins. That season ended with a losing record and a rare missed NCAA tournament appearance for the program that boasts a record 11 national championships, even if it’s added only one title in the last 43 years.
“I’m sitting here watching the offense that I saw three years ago when I did the radio,” Martin said. “It’s kind of outdated.”
Martin said he felt he needed to speak out publicly because the unranked Bruins had become an afterthought nationally.
“We’ve always been one of the bluebloods, but we’re not playing like a blueblood,” Martin said. “We’re not competing, we’re not moving the program in the direction of like a Kansas, a Duke, a North Carolina.”
Martin’s credentials to weigh in on UCLA’s shortcomings go beyond having worn the team’s uniform. He was assistant director of player development for the Toronto Raptors, served as an assistant coach under Steve Lavin at St. John’s and coached the Reno Bighorns of the NBA’s G League.
Martin’s torrent of tweets after the Cincinnati game reflected discontent across the board.
“Defensively we have no clue how to stop anyone or are we able to make adjustments on the fly, which a coach should be able to do,” Martin wrote. “ … We should never get beat by 30 points. … You have to evolve as a coach, you have to challenge yourself every day. … Simple question: Do the players that come to [UCLA] develop and get better or are they the same player they were when they got to UCLA?”
Martin said he had heard from several former Bruins after his tweets, including Ed O’Bannon, Rico Hines, Matt Barnes and Kris Johnson. The message was always the same.
“A lot of guys have either liked my tweets or retweeted it or called me and left messages saying, ‘Thank you for saying how we feel,’ ” Martin said. “Because we all love UCLA, we all cherish our time there.
“Those four letters across our chest, that’s a pretty big honor to be able to wear on your chest. Normally, when you come out of that locker room being a UCLA basketball player, you’re probably up 6-0 just because you’re UCLA and the other team’s like, ‘Wow.’ ”
VS. OHIO STATE
When: Noon PST.
Where: United Center, Chicago.
On the Air: TV: Channel 2; Radio: 1150.
Update: The Buckeyes have won four consecutive games since their only loss, a 72-62 setback against Syracuse. Kaleb Wesson (16.5 points per game) and C.J. Jackson (12.3) are the only players averaging double figures in scoring for Ohio State, which has largely won thanks to its defense. The Buckeyes are holding opponents to 61.4 points per game and only 29.7% shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch