The storied UCLA Basketball program is struggling. With a strong recruiting class and a solid group of veterans, most preseason polls had UCLA back in the top 15 this year. However, the Bruins did not live up to the expectations, losing to several schools that they should have easily beaten. With the pressure mounting from alumni and donors, UCLA fired their coach, Steve Alford, midway through the season. I grew up a fan of UCLA basketball and their legendary coach, John Wooden. I had his pyramid of success prominently placed on my bedroom wall and I obsessively followed all of the school’s star players, including Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor, and Marques Johnson. In their heyday, the Bruins won seven consecutive NCAA Championships and a total of ten in a twelve-year span. It might have been the greatest sports dynasty of all time. It was so rare for UCLA to lose a basketball game that when it did happen, it was typically headline news. The game was different back then. Players played for four years. There was no such thing as a one-and-done. After Wooden retired, UCLA has still been good but nowhere near the powerhouse it was during those peak years. This year, the Bruins are barely above .500 in terms of wins and it is highly unlikely they will even make the NCAA Tournament. With star players playing only one year before they head to the pros, recruiting takes on a different priority. Coach Wooden had time to develop his players and get them to play within a system. That’s not so easy anymore. Today’s top coaches recruit five to seven top players every year, knowing that most of them will be with the program for a year or two, tops. They have time to teach them a few plays and guide them to as many victories as possible. The Bruins still have the reputation and the legacy to draw top talent; they need a coach who can connect with players, their families, and who can recruit his tail off. I hope UCLA takes a serious look at Earl Watson. After a brilliant career as a player at UCLA, Coach Watson played thirteen years in the NBA and became one of the youngest head coaches in NBA history. More importantly, he is a great person who will mentor the young men who come through his program. He would also be the first Latino UCLA head coach… Go Bruins!
Author: Gary Acosta
Gary Acosta is an entrepreneur, public policy advocate, investor, and thought leader passionate about advancing prosperity for Latinos and other underserved communities.