Published October 30, 2013
LOS ANGELES – For the first time since 1979, UCLA and Southern California have changed basketball coaches at the same time.
And they couldn't be more different.
One of them preaches patience in finding the best shot. The other relishes seeing the ball fly around at a suicide pace.
One of them is a coach's son who grew up a gym rat in basketball-crazed Indiana. The other sold himself into coaching on the strength of being a 92 percent free throw shooter at Division III Johns Hopkins.
Steve Alford takes over at UCLA, inheriting a program that boasts a record 11 national championships and the heavy legacy of John Wooden.
"UCLA's not for everybody," Alford said. "You've got to understand, walking on that campus, what it's about. It's about excellence. So there's pressures with that, there's challenges with that, but with that come incredible opportunities."
Andy Enfield is in charge at USC, where the basketball program has languished in the enormous shadow of the school's football team.
"We're trying to build a program with sustainability," he said. "One season doesn't make or break part of building a program, which we're trying to do over the long term."
They were hired two days apart last spring, two 40-something guys with opposing styles in a city that demands to be entertained while watching winners. Nowhere does the bandwagon fill quicker or empty faster than Los Angeles.
Both coaches will be under pressure with young teams to have early success that will create buzz and put people in the seats. UCLA was picked by the media to finish second in the Pac-12; USC was forecast 11th.
Ben Howland's grind-it-out defensive style eventually turned off UCLA's fan base, and led to declining attendance in his 10th and final season. Alford came up playing under Bob Knight at Indiana, where defense and control were emphasized.
Enfield landed the USC job on the strength of a head-turning run in last year's NCAA tourney. He guided tiny Florida Gulf Coast to the final 16, upsetting No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State along the way. His team was nicknamed Dunk City for its high-octane offense that produced a slam fest.
Expect more of the same on Figueroa Street, where several blocks north of USC's arena the Los Angeles Clippers have plied their Lob City identity to great success.
"He wants us shooting real early in the shot clock. He wants us pushing it in transition," guard Byron Wesley said of Enfield. "He wants us attacking the rim and making plays. That's got to be extremely exciting for the fans."
Alford says the Bruins are going to play up tempo, too, although his recent New Mexico teams paid attention to defense.
"Everything we've been running," forward David Wear said, "is all kind of motion, fast break right into the flow of the offense-type stuff, which I think fits this team really well."
Enfield, a 44-year-old who once worked in finance at a high-tech startup, comes equipped with a sense of humor to go with his gap-toothed smile.
He inadvertently tossed a spark into the smoldering rivalry between the schools separated by 14 miles of L.A. freeway. During a recent practice, Enfield chided his Trojans, saying, "We play up tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA."
The comment quickly zinged its way around the Internet, and into Alford's realm. He played along at Pac-12 media day, telling star swingman Kyle Anderson, "Your nickname is Slow-Mo."
Unlike his predecessor Kevin O'Neill, whose practices were laced with expletives, Enfield uses sarcasm to motivate his players.
Enfield's UCLA comment worked with USC guard J.T. Terrell, who joked, "I hope it adds more fire to the battle."
The rivalry between UCLA and USC has long been dominated by the Bruins, although the teams split games last season.
Alford, who at 48 remains an icon in the Hoosier State, has his two sons on UCLA's roster. Freshman Bryce was a top prep scorer in New Mexico, while sophomore Kory played for his father off the bench last season.
Wear describes the atmosphere as family friendly, a stark contrast to Howland, who was said to have little interaction with his players away from the court.
"Coach Alford is always just playing with us and shooting around with us and joking with us," Wear said. "It's kind of more laid back as far as off the court, but on the court it's really intense."
As the new guys in town, Alford and Enfield say they respect one another while trying to build different programs.
Enfield may have the early upper hand in recruiting, having hired assistants with L.A. ties. Alford hired one of his assistants from New Mexico and another from an Indianapolis high school.
Alford talks about luring recruits who will understand "the UCLA way."
Enfield compares college basketball to having a full-time job, and he wants it to be enjoyable for his players.
"It's easy to play for me," he said. "You've just got to play hard."
And that's one thing both coaches would agree on.