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Finding a connection between Steve Alford and John Wooden

March 30, 2013|By Chris Dufresne
  • Steve Alford, as coach of Iowa in 2006, talks to guard Dean Oliver during a game. Alford led Iowa to a 25-9 record that year, including the Hawkeyes' second Big Ten Conference tournament championship.
Steve Alford, as coach of Iowa in 2006, talks to guard Dean Oliver during… (Charlie Neibergall / Associated…)

Steve Alford might not seem to have many ties to UCLA basketball.

He played at Indiana for Coach Bob Knight, who seemed to go out of his way to praise Pete Newell at the expense of John Wooden, who like Alford was an all-state high school player in Indiana who became an All-American in college and led his team to an NCAA title.

But here’s a nugget I found from an extensive 1997 story I did on Alford when he was coaching at Southwest Missouri State.

After Alford was released by the Sacramento Kings in 1992, he was offered a job to coach Division III Manchester College in Indiana. The school was looking for a home-state hero to rescue a struggling basketball program.

Steve’s father Sam gave his son two things before he took over at Manchester: A copy of Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” and a whistle.

Following are some other tidbits from my 1997 story.

Alford, of course, was a school-boy legend in Indiana who played for his father at New Castle’s Chrysler High.

Alford learned how to count at age 3 by watching the numbers flip on the high school basketball scoreboard.

He honed his feathery jump shot by shooting ping-pong balls into a Pringles potato-chip canister.

He denied himself ice cream for missing practice shots in his driveway.

His marriage proposal to his high school sweetheart involved her having to climb a ladder and fetch an engagement ring he had placed in a box on the back of the rim.

He charted every practice shot he took and at the end of one summer had topped 25,000.

Alford is not a yeller and screamer on the court but his father told me the one coach who had the most influence on his son.

"The majority of his knowledge of the game came from Coach Knight," Sam Alford said.


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