In the most ridiculous moves of the off season (and there have been quite a few of them), UCLA head coach Steve Alford has fired assistant coach David Grace.
Grace, a 20-year Air Force veteran, had been on Alford’s staff since 2013. Widely recognized as one of the best recruiters in the business, and a DI head coach in the making, Grace was responsible for bringing Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Shareef O’Neal and more to UCLA. He was also a finalist for the Fresno State job, and rumored to be involved at Cal State Northridge earlier this spring.
Ben Bolch of the LA Times, has sent a series of tweets in which he reports that Alford blames AD Dan Guerrero for firing Grace, but Guerrero denies this. Bolch quotes Grace as saying; “He (Alford) said that Dan [Guerrero] wanted to make the change and the next day I talked to Dan and Dan said he never told him to make a coaching change, so I don’t know where that came from.”
Grace also told Bolch; “This was a tremendous shock, the fact that the job I was given to be as the recruiting recruiting coordinator, four of the five years we had top-five recruiting classes. That didn’t always happen there and it’s definitely a shame.”
One of the good guys in college basketball, Grace also commented on the FBI investigation, telling Bolch; “I’m going to get a letter from UCLA stating that it had nothing to do with it. If you notice, out of all the Adidas schools and the [non]-Adidas schools, we’re the only one that weren’t implicated and it’s because I don’t do that and we don’t do that. My 20 years of experience in the Air Force and all that, I have great integrity in what I do.”
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman has reported that Grace will be replaced by former UAB and East Tennessee State head coach Murry Bartow.
Fortunately for Grace, he he will land on his feet. It sounds like he already has some options, and at the end of the day, will end up in a better place. He’ll get hired not only because of his reputation as an elite recruiter, but also for his reputation as a class act and role model.
The same cannot be said for Alford who is currently under contract at UCLA through the 2020-21 season. This past season, he led the Bruins to a 21-12 record and a first round loss to St. Bonaventure in the NCAA Tournament. He reportedly has a $3.6 million if his contract is terminated before April 30, 2019, and a $1 million buyout if the contract is terminated before April 30, 2020. He now sits firmly atop college basketball’s hot seat.