UCLA men's basketball coach Steve Alford disputed the account of an assistant coach who told the Los Angeles Times that Alford had informed him he was not being retained at the request of athletic director Dan Guerrero.
Alford said Monday in a statement provided by the school announcing the hiring of Murry Bartow to replace assistant David Grace that Grace's dismissal was Alford's call. Alford said he met with Guerrero after the season ended last month and asked if the athletic director would be supportive of a personnel change to improve the program.
After receiving Guerrero's support, Alford said, he made the decision not to keep Grace on his staff. Grace said Saturday that Alford had pinned the move on Guerrero, adding that the athletic director later told Grace that he was not involved in the decision.
"David and I have differing accounts of our conversation," Alford said in the statement, "but the bottom line is that I thank him for his impact here and wish him the best moving forward."
Bartow is returning to the school where his late father, Gene, coached for two seasons as the successor to John Wooden while Murry served as a ball boy at Pauley Pavilion.
Murry's lengthy coaching career started with a stop as a graduate assistant at Indiana during the 1986-87 season, when Alford was leading the Hoosiers to the national championship. Bartow went on to become a head coach for 18 seasons at East Tennessee State and Alabama Birmingham, compiling a 327-268 record and guiding his teams to four NCAA tournaments. He also served as the interim coach at South Florida for more than half of the 2016-17 season after the firing of Orlando Antigua.
"I've been around Murry for a long time, and he's someone who I really respect and admire," Alford said. "He comes from a basketball family, he has a solid coaching pedigree and he has developed a really good understanding of the game. ... We have a big off-season ahead of us, and I know that Murry will play a major role in helping our guys get better every day."
Murry and Gene compiled 974 victories as head coaches (Gene with 647), the fifth-highest total among father-son duos.
"I'm really excited to be joining UCLA's program," Murry Bartow said in a statement. "It's an honor to be at UCLA, one of the world's greatest universities with a very rich basketball tradition. I've known Steve since he played the game, and I love the way his UCLA teams play an exciting, fast-paced style.
"Steve's an outstanding coach and an even better person. I'm thrilled to work alongside him, and it's humbling for me to be back at UCLA. I have great memories of when my father was the head coach here and still remember the days when I served as a ball boy at games in Pauley."