Open Letter to Dan Guerrero

Dear Mr. Guerrero,

We, the undersigned, are writing to you as a group of devoted Bruin fans.

The people on this list consist of alumni, boosters, donors, and fans, all brought together in an unprecedented way because we share one common opinion.  

We would first like to let you know we understand the pressures and challenges you face in running the UCLA athletic department.  We recognize the accomplishments of making UCLA’s athletic department fiscally successful, renovating Pauley Pavilion and building the football and basketball facilities, especially in the state school environment of California and the economic climate of the last several years.

We believe that UCLA is in our hearts and that being a Bruin means so much to you, as it does to all of us.

Like you, being a Bruin has been such an important aspect of our lives. Many of us grew up Bruin fans, and come from families with many generations of Bruins.   

So much of our lives are remembered and associated with UCLA, and for the undersigned, the UCLA basketball program. For 60 years it’s been one of the most unique and special sports teams in the world.  The beauty, excellence and dignity of Bruin basketball has been a thread throughout our lives, something we could always rely on.  

However, we can’t do that anymore.

Everyone who signs this petition assuredly agrees that the state of UCLA basketball is in a crisis.  For many of us who have been Bruin fans for decades, it is a recognition that this crisis is in many ways unprecedented for the program.  Many of us lived through the Walt Hazzard and Larry Farmer years, and we remember those well as an extended period of time in the 1980’s where on-court success and relevancy seemed lost.  Until recently, that period of time could have been referred to as the “low-point” in the basketball program’s post-John Wooden history, and yet compared to that era, this current time with Steve Alford feels different.  Yes, there are similarities in terms of wins and losses, but the program doesn’t have that same glow and spirit to it.  Even under Steve Lavin, it was still UCLA basketball and crowds at Pauley Pavilion did not plummet like we have seen since Steve Alford took over.  Even when Ben Howland’s program was on the decline, his players could be counted on to always play with great effort, and he loved and respected UCLA basketball.

We could spout stats to you, cite statistics showing Pauley Pavilion setting historical records for lowest annual average attendance, but you know all that.  What we can offer you is the prevailing perspective of the majority of the UCLA basketball fan community, articulated in a way that only Bruin fans who have a deep and heartfelt connection to the program can understand and feel.  

You have stated that no one understands expectations at UCLA like you do, and our hope is that you will similarly uniquely understand the anguish that UCLA fans are experiencing as our beloved program has been decaying before our eyes. While, of course, there are some with unreasonable expectations of where the program should be, we believe the vast majority of UCLA fans have a clear understanding that the days of John Wooden are over and we all simply want a competitive program that we can all be proud of. That is one of the main reasons the undersigned felt that approaching you in this manner, with this voice, was necessary – to help make clear that we are not demanding national championships and undefeated seasons every year, and to make clear that most UCLA fans have, over the course of several years, arrived at a balanced and fair assessment of UCLA basketball.  

In unprecedented numbers this is our collective opinion:

  1. The teams Alford has put on the court in his three years have been talented, but they play with very little effort, and thus the variation and inconsistency in results (e.g., beating Kentucky, losing to Washington State). One of the great indicators for sustained and consistent success among the most successful college coaches has been an ability to motivate their teams to give maximum effort.  It shows respect to the coach, the fans and, for UCLA, the Four Letters on the uniform.  Yet until these last three years, we haven’t seen this lack of effort from a UCLA program under a specific coach (including Steve Lavin) in our lifetimes. As fans our obligation is to support the team, regardless of wins and losses and ups and downs. But the one obligation of the team in return is to play hard.  Alford’s teams have broken that pact with UCLA fans, which we believe is a driving factor in the attendance decline and the UCLA fan community’s inability to embrace Steve Alford.  
  2. The lack of good, sound basketball.  UCLA, for the most part of 60 years, has embodied well-taught, fundamentally-sound basketball. The basketball that is being played by Alford’s program does not come close to this ideal.  It’s embarrassing to listen on a nationally televised game when TV commentators, who perpetually soft-pedal their criticism, blatantly call out the fundamentals of a Steve Alford-coached UCLA team. Charles Barkley, as a commentator for the recent NBA Dunk Contest, said “I only watch good [college] teams, that’s why I don’t watch UCLA.”  The fact that this has even a slight chance of being said about UCLA basketball cuts at the core of everything we hold dear about the ideals of UCLA basketball and the legacy that John Wooden built. We believe that in addition to Steve Alford’s inability to motivate his players to consistently play hard, he has failed to instill sound fundamentals into his players, the combination of which has led to what has now essentially become a .500 basketball program and why there is so little hope among the undersigned for significant improvement in the future no matter how much talent is eventually recruited into the program.
  3. Even if you feel it’s not true, you have to be aware that the perception among UCLA fans is that Alford is using UCLA basketball as a platform and showcase for his son, Bryce, at the expense of the team, the program, the fans, and the legacy of UCLA basketball. This isn’t something a few crazy fringe fans believe, but the overwhelming majority of rational, fair-minded UCLA fans who have watched the team consistently since Steve and Bryce Alford arrived.  It’s important for you to know what this perception is, and that UCLA fans believe their beloved UCLA program has been hijacked to a degree by a coach who has put his family interest ahead of those of the UCLA program, and just how anathema that is to the undersigned who cherish the program as something greater than a mere basketball team.  If you talk candidly with UCLA fans, they’ll cite this favoritism as one of the biggest reason they’ve abandoned the program, that it violates standards and ideals they need to support a program and coach.

There are more issues, but we won’t laundry list all of them.  

This all has made us collectively feel that what we’re watching isn’t UCLA basketball.  The product on the court is surreal, bringing about a foreign, strange feeling, literally like the UCLA basketball program has been stolen from us.  

This is an amazing turn of events, something we could never envision in our lifetime.  UCLA basketball was sacred and it’s now being denigrated in a way we thought we’d never live to see.    

It’s heartbreaking for us.

Just so you know, it’s changed the state of the UCLA basketball fan in a way we’ve never witnessed.   It used to be that UCLA basketball fans, regardless of the wins and losses in any given year, still cared about UCLA basketball.  The record-low attendance obviously reflects this, but beyond the empty seats at Pauley Pavilion, interest in UCLA basketball among even the formerly most-ardent UCLA fans is at an all-time low. For the first time ever, UCLA basketball fans are sitting out their UCLA basketball fandom, with so many expressing that they no longer plan their social schedules around UCLA basketball games, that they no longer even bother to watch games on TV, and that they simply cannot bring themselves to follow the program again until Steve Alford is no longer the head coach and the program and its integrity can begin the process of being rebuilt. Certainly the last few poor years under Howland contributed, but these three deeply disappointing and disorienting years under Alford has made it too overwhelming for fans to continue to endure. It is simply too painful to watch. We’ve lost UCLA basketball and don’t see the light of it coming back soon.  

Many of us are older fans, and we feel there is an increasingly less likelihood of seeing another successful era of UCLA basketball in our lifetimes.  And again, it’s not just about success on the court and wins and losses; it’s about restoring the integrity of UCLA basketball, so its players have reverence for the Four Letters and firing out with maximum effort every time they take the court in respect of John Wooden. It’s about restoring the basic dignity of UCLA basketball so we’re no longer a punch line for TV commentators.  It’s about restoring the bond between the UCLA basketball program and the UCLA basketball program fan-base.

Many people on this list will not attend another UCLA basketball game until Steve Alford is dismissed. Many of people on this list will not donate another dollar to the athletic department until Steve Alford is dismissed. Obviously the fan turnout at Pauley Pavilion is reflective of this opinion.  And while we understand that the football program’s recent success has driven many donor dollars to the Wooden Fund, we are sure you understand that there is an enormous amount of potential donor dollars that could be tapped if the basketball program is liberated.  

We assume that you believe firing Alford after three seasons is harsh. In your time at UCLA, you’ve never done that before. There are enough of us who agreed with you when you gave Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel probably one additional year before you dismissed them. But the Alford situation is different.  If you wait one more year, after the several bad Howland years and Alford’s three seasons, we’re afraid you might permanently damage UCLA basketball to the point it won’t easily bounce back. As we detailed earlier, this period of UCLA basketball harkens back to the 1980’s as a sustained low-point of UCLA basketball, but with the unique crisis of UCLA basketball losing its identity, legacy and fan-base in ways that differentiate it as perhaps the single greatest crisis period of UCLA basketball since its inception.

The Pauley Pavilion re-model and construction of the basketball practice facility will both resonate as lasting contributions to the basketball program and UCLA as whole, for decades. But the reality is, when it comes to your legacy as UCLA’s athletic director, those accomplishments could ultimately be overshadowed by how you handle the Alford situation.  The undersigned believe you have one last thing to do to ensure your legacy at UCLA, and that’s restore UCLA basketball to its rightful place as one of the most respected and honorable college basketball programs in the country. Taking action at the end of this season rather than waiting one more year could be what it would take for the UCLA fan community to forgive the unsuccessful hiring of Alford, since you swiftly took the action necessary to correct it.  Send a decisive message to the UCLA community that you’re willing to do what it takes to get this done. We want so much to support you; give us the final reason to do it.  

As a gesture of our sincere desire to send our message to the athletic department in a constructive manner as partners, we opted not to start an offensive website, or storm the Morgan Center with protests. We chose to voice our opinion to you this civil way, so you’d appreciate that we are not the lunatic fringe, but the deeply frustrated core of reasonable UCLA basketball fans. We hope it inspires you to provide us the courtesy of your attention and motivates you to take action.  

With sincere respect and regards,

The UCLA Basketball Fan Community

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1,686 thoughts on “Open Letter to Dan Guerrero

  1. UCLA holds a special place in all of college basketball. The Bruins should always either be great, or on the path back to greatness. It is time for a change to put us back on that path. Jeff Davis, Class of 1977

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  2. Championships start with great leadership.
    It’s time for UCLAs return to excellence!

    Class of ’77

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  3. Conference of Champions used to start with UCLA.
    Today, that’s a distant memory. It’s time for our return
    to greatness! That starts at the top –

    Go Bruins! Class of ’77

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  4. Raise the bar on UCLA basketball back where it belongs, so we can once again raise our heads in support of this program. This year I stopped watching my favorite Bruins on TV during this past basketball season, sadly.

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  5. How has a small school in Washington named Gonzaga consistently outdone a school that still ranks fifth overall in NBA players? How can UCLA have a losing record in anything? Not only should the coach go, but the AD needs to go with him! When Bill Walton waxes poetically about USC it is time for them all to be gone and start over!

    Jim Kaldem

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  6. I didn’t think it possible, but Steve Alford has made UCLA basketball irrelevant. I have season seats, and did not attend a single game. Will not attend until Alford is gone.

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  7. Find a coach who does not insist on playing his son while more talented players are sitting on the bench.

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  8. I remember the days of sleeping out on the sidewalk in front of Pauley the night before a home game to get our priority numbers. At that time we were 300 something and 9 at home!
    Times have changed; time to make a change..

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  9. As a lifelong (67 years) Bruin fan, it pains me immeasurably to realize the deplorable state to which the basketball program has deteriorated. A change must be made–now before it is too late and the damage is irreparable.

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  10. Being dismantled by USC 3 times in 1 year is completely i unacceptable. Trying to watch a UCLA game now is unbearable. UCLA basketball how now become the definition of mediocrity. Something must be done!!

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  11. Fire Alford. U$C made it to the tournament and beat our Bruins three times this season. Nothing else needs to be said.

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  12. Mr. Dan Guerrero, when I had an unofficial meeting between coach Ben Howland and coach Donny Daniels on an unofficial visit, Coach asked me if I could translate to his mom who did not know any english and I am a Latino bilingual person. This year we had a very good Latin American who wanted to come to play at UCLA but Alford did not want to waste his time on all the translating, what a waste of space he is. And the person that ended going to play his 4 years there was Lorenzo Mata. Please restructure his contract, even if they have a good year they will still want him out.

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  13. Time to get rid of Alford! Why was he giving such a generous contract? His inabilities have created Bruin failures. 7 teams out of 12 in PAC12 make NCAA and UCLA not in that group! Inexcusable!!!!

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  14. The hiring of Steve Alford has always mystified me as a move to bring UCLA back to the stature and relevancy such an iconic and storied program deserves. Clearly his professional record and his personal conduct – the Pierre Pierce fiasco and his blatant nepotism, the way he left both the Iowa and New Mexico programs – were not, and are not on a level consistent with the professed intent of the administration to return UCLA to an elite status. The writing was on the wall three years ago, and still stands out in bold print. The sooner Alford is let go, the sooner the Bruin Nation can regain it’s rightful place as a perennial basketball power.

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  15. Steve Alford has brought the once-glorious UCLA basketball program to its lowest point since the Wooden years. I do not expect a national championship every year, but I do expect good fundamental play. Next year’s talented class will not solve the problem unless they have a new coach who teaches offense and defense, and who does not give the majority of playing time to a mediocre player who happens to be his son.
    Fire Alford and return the glory to UCLA basketball!

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  16. Why was he paid so much and given so much protection from a buyout?
    You gave Alford a contract as if he were Wooden himself.
    Class of 1983

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  17. This season was painful and embarrassing. Lack of effort, inconsistency, no defense. I don’t know what it was, but it certainly wasn’t UCLA basketball. Alford needs to go. If as an AD you are happy or satisfied with these results, then I’m sorry Mr. Guerrero, but you also have to go. This is totally unacceptable.

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  18. Enough is enough. We need a new start to return UCLA basketball to its rightful place in the sport. Do not allow Alford to drag the program down any further than he has already done.

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  19. Agreed, there needs to be a change and change in the head coach would be the largest shift in the right direction

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  20. The state of the team is heartbreaking. I’m encouraged every year to hear of great recruits but the play doesn’t seem to improve. Players leaving after only one year doesn’t help, but other great programs seem to be able to continue on.

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  21. I can’t watch another UCLA basketball game without feeling nauseous. Alford needs to go

    My grandma, dad and step-mom are alumni, so I’ve grown up with blue and gold in my veins. We need to restore the basketball team to it’s former glory.

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  22. The nepotism, the incompetence, the lack of basketball acumen and player development is an embarrassment to the tradition of Ucla basketball and John Wooden’s legacy. Alford should be fired immediately and any AD with pride in his work and respect for the position (especially considering he is one of the highest paid public employees in California) would be prepared to replace an underachieving coach. Shameful.

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  23. Please give me a reason to be optimistic about UCLA basketball… It’s not right that as a fan we just survive basketball season waiting for football to begin again.

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  24. The highlight of this years UCLA basketball season was watching USC lose on a last second layup last night. That’s where we’re at.

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  25. As a proud UCLA Alumni please make the necessary changes in the Men’s Basketball Program to improve its declining status.
    The Head Coach Steve Alford must be released in order for the program to move forward.
    I attended several home games and sadly I was left heart broken in the lack of aggressiveness in defence and overall I was left with the impression I had just watch a highschool VARSITY game at best. This is not what “CHAMPIONS ARE MADE OF”!
    So another year of this EMBRASSING state of play can not continue.
    In closing the Bruin Family that consist of Alumni,donors and faithful fans are pleading a change in leadership asap.

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  26. Worse than the losses is how irrelevant the basketball program has become. It’s disheartening. There is no excuse to accept anything less than excellence in a program with the pedigree of UCLA basketball.

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  27. I have been a long time active alumni participant, often being the person in charge of organizing game watches. I can barely drum up the will to be interested, let alone get others enthusiastic about watching a failing program. This is hurting not only UCLA basketball or UCLA athletics, it’s hurting the UCLA community.

    Devoted Bruin c/o 2005

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  28. This season was the apogee of failure! Oh wait, I thought that when Alford was hired! Both Dan and Alford need to go and fast! How many more seasons can we go with a subpar performance and jealously look at the March runs of UK, UNC, and other wanna be Bruins teams?

    It’s time for Alford to pack his bags, grab his daddy-boy and be gone from Westwood!

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  29. Things have to get better. Bryce should be coming off the bench. Ali has much more upside and we might lose him. I’m not a big donor, but I am a donor and a season ticket holder for both basketball and football. Changes take too long to happen at UCLA. Peter Dalis should have never been the Athletic Director and maybe Dan Guerrero either.

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  30. How can you get worse and not better when building a team. And don’t get me started on the nepotism!!!

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  31. I am disgusted that this nepotistic and unaccountable behavior is occurring on the hallowed court of Wooden. Both Dan Guerrero and Steve Alford need to be held accountable for doing the opposite of everything represented by the pyramid of success.

    – class of 1999

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  32. Waiting too long always causes a bigger mess to clean up. Better to take our medicine now and work on the road to recovery.

    Class of ’07

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  33. I concur with what everyone has written. I didn’t attend a game this year–the first year since I graduated when I was living in Los Angeles.

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  34. This madness has to end. You made your lack of respect for the Athletic Program perfectly clear when you opted to fly to Italy and go on a wine-tasting tour rather than celebrate the Bruins’ first ever National Championship in Baseball. Worse yet, you made absolutely no effort to make sure that the widow of the Baseball program’s Greatest Alumnus, Jackie Robinson, was in attendance. You might have given the fans some hope with your hiring of Jim Mora, You shattered any faith we had in the Department with your disastrous hiring of Steve Alford and the most incredibly offensive concept of all time, I don’t know what you were thinking when you negotiated that contract, but the buyout clause alone should have been enough to have the attorney who wrote it up be brought before the Bar for disciplinary actions. Firing Alford is no longer enough. You need to do the right thing and tender your own resignation alongside. That will start the healing of the program.

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  35. Unfathomable that Steve Alford, with no professional record of success or accomplishment, is the coach over whom the UCLA administration is locked in a death struggle against its own donors, alumni, and fans. He’s not worth it.

    Like

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