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March 20, 2015

Bryce Alford

Steve Alford

Norman Powell


b>Q. Bryce, UAB coach was talking about how well you use screens and all that. I know that you've got a lot of that in your family. How old were you when you first learned how to do that?
BRYCE ALFORD: It's something I've been working on my entire life, ever since I started taking basketball seriously. I knew that that's something that my dad did really well when he played, and he's obviously taught me how to do it, how to read screens, how to brush the shoulder of the guy screening you, and how to read where your defender is going and go the opposite way. It's definitely something that I used to my advantage when I'm playing.

Q. Bryce, your dad says you're a better player than him. Is he right?
BRYCE ALFORD: I don't know. I mean, he's one of the best college basketball players of all time, in my opinion. Obviously, I'm a little biased. He was an incredible player in college. I'm not so much trying to live up to him or trying to be as good as he is, I'm just trying to be my own player and make a name for myself.

Q. Bryce, how often do you watch grainy old videos of your dad playing, especially at Indiana?
BRYCE ALFORD: I watched a few in high school. I saw some of his games when he played in the Olympics with Michael Jordan and stuff like that. We've kind of kept that separate. We've kind of kept it a little bit distant in the fact of not trying to compare each other. He's a different player than I was. Obviously, there's similarities. Being his son, we're obviously going to have similarities in the way we play. It's always been something that we both talked about, for me not to try to live up to being who he was as a player but to try to be my own player and make an identity for myself.

Q. Bryce, if you want to be your own player, did you give consideration to going somewhere else and not playing for your dad? Can you kind of talk us through the decision that you made to play for him. Norman, what's it like for the rest of you guys? Is do you kind of forget that Bryce is the coach's son? Or is it just something normal to you guys now?
BRYCE ALFORD: There's definitely a time, once I started to get a little bit of recognition in AAU basketball, I started to get a little bit of recruiting, and there was a time where I kind of wanted to explore, go through the process of getting recruited and stuff like that. But ever since I was little, I've been around my dad's teams. I've gone to practices. I've gone on road trips and hung out with his guys, and I've just gotten used to the system and gotten used to how close of a family his teams are, and it's something I always wanted to be a part of. Then my brother decided that he wanted to go and play for my dad where he might have been able to play at a small school, but he decided he wanted to walk on and play for my dad as well. He told me how great it was. When it came down to it, it was a pretty easy decision that I went to play for him.

NORMAN POWELL: You honestly never forget who the coach's sons are. I think Coach and Bryce and Kory have done a great job of keeping that separated and treating them just like everybody else. Coach is really good with the family aspect of what's going on at UCLA's program, and they feel like one of the guys. This is my brother sitting next to me, and it's the same throughout the locker room. That's how we feel, just like Bryce said. Coach does a great job of making everybody feel the family aspect of what we're doing inside the locker room. So you never forget, but it's definitely something he does a great job keeping separate from family and the coach.

Q. Bryce, you said you just wanted to make a name for yourself. What was it like yesterday having this epic performance, having that game-winning shot, where on a national stage like you haven't had before, especially after some of the criticism you had? Norman, what is it like the past two years when you've heard some criticism about Bryce?
BRYCE ALFORD: It's tough. Being a coach's kid, it's not something I can really explain to anybody unless you are a coach's kid. You really don't know what it's like. I'm under the microscope 100 percent of the time. It's just something that comes with having the last name of Alford. Whether I was playing for him or not, I'm still a coach's kid. Being able to play for him at a school like UCLA, you get a lot of heat. It's been something that I've had to go through for my entire first two years. I know it's not going to stop regardless. For my four years at UCLA, it's always going to be there. When you have a good game like that, obviously, it's good. It feels good personally, but when it comes down to it, it's all about getting wins. That's what it's all about. It's not about individual performances.

NORMAN POWELL: The criticism that Bryce has to deal with, I think, not only him, but the coaching staff as well as the team, have done a great job not listening to the noise, to focus on what's being said in the locker room. I think not only Bryce, but this team this year has dealt with a lot of adversity, a lot of criticism for the games we've played in. Something we've all done is believed in one another, believed the team, believed what's being said in the locker room because we know what we can do, and we've just got to go out there and perform. You can see that with this team, that we're able to go out and do the things we want to accomplish.

Q. You guys are closer in seed, with them being a 14 and you being an 11. When you see a team like Iowa State go down to UAB, does that put you guys on notice a little more that we need to focus going into this game because it could happen to us as well?
NORMAN POWELL: Honestly, we know that UAB is a great team. We played them earlier in the season. And Iowa State was a great team. A lot of had them picked going further and farther in the tournament. Any team can win like that. It's about how much you want it and how hard you work for it, and UAB really worked hard for that win. We know that they're a great team, and we've got to go in there with the same focus level as we do every game. We can't take them lightly because, when you take teams for granted, you run the risk of getting beat. We know they're a great team. We know we're a great team. So it's going to be fun to play them again.

Q. Bryce, here in Kentucky there's a lot of basketball as religion. I was wondering how connected you are with that, and did you experience any of that maybe going home with your dad? Are you feeling any of that this week in this area? Also, Norman, how was your final?
BRYCE ALFORD: Being born in Indiana, even though I didn't grow up there, I'm still known as a basketball kid. You're born in Indiana, everybody has a hoop on their driveway. You don't pass a single house that doesn't have a basketball hoop on their driveway. Kids are out there shooting in the middle of winter when the nets are frozen. You can't even get the ball to go through. So, yeah, it's something that I was born with. I didn't grow up there, but I grew up in the Midwest, and I've always had basketball in my blood. I've always been around the game. My dad's always been a coach, ever since I was born. So there's never been really a time that I haven't been around the game.

NORMAN POWELL: It went well, I think. I got a little extra time to study. I took it today, this morning, at 11:00. So I'm hoping it went well because it was my last final I have to take at the college level.

Q. Norman, there aren't that many seniors playing. What is that like when you see you're playing against a lot of younger guys?
NORMAN POWELL: Honestly, I don't really think about it. I'm just focused on the task at hand and winning games. I've had a great four years here, and I wouldn't change anything about that. To be one of the few seniors playing, I guess it's kind of special. It's kind of rare. But I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Q. You mentioned playing UAB back in November. Have you had a chance yet to look at them and see how different they are from that game?
NORMAN POWELL: We know that, when we played them in the Bahamas, that they didn't have one of their players, and with them, they're a totally different team. It gives them great energy. And he's another option for the go-to in the offense. They've just gotten better. You see the chemistry, the way they're sharing the ball, the way they're shooting, the way their offense is. You can see they never quit. They're a very hard working team, have a lot of energy, all 40 minutes of the game. So they've definitely grown and become a better basketball team from when we first saw them.

BRYCE ALFORD: Yeah, what he said. They didn't have one of their key guys in (William) Lee, and having him back is definitely going to help them. Obviously, you've seen that with their big win yesterday and just how they came down the stretch. They're kind of identical to us. We started out kind of slow and had to get used to playing together and tough like that, but they've really grown into a really good basketball team. So we've got to be ready to play them.

Q. Bryce, you said yesterday that was kind of the ultimate example of March Madness. Do you remember other shots? Did you follow it closely as a kid? Do you remember Bryce Drew's shot?
BRYCE ALFORD: It's funny you say that. Back when my dad was coaching at Iowa, Valparaiso came in for a practice, and I was just a little kid shooting around. My dad was joking around because I used to imitate that shot when I was little. I'd shoot the three and dive on the floor like I did. I thought it was cool because he made that shot and had the same name as me. Definitely, I've always watched March Madness growing up. It's something I enjoy every year. So it's kind of cool to have my own moment.

Q. Bryce Drew also played for his father.
BRYCE ALFORD: Yeah, it was cool to see that. He was a coach's kid as well.

Q. Now that Thomas (Welsh) and G.G. (Gyorgy Goloman) and Noah (Allen) have earned your trust, how does it determine the decisions you make in terms of rotation?
COACH ALFORD: I think you saw that last night. We played Thomas the last six minutes of the game. We do have a lot of confidence in our bench, and that trust has just kind of developed over the season. It was very young, inexperienced bench. I'm not saying we're now old and experienced, but now there are 34, 35 plus games into their freshman year. Noah, even though he's a sophomore, didn't get a lot of playing time last year. So there's a lot more trust on both sides, I think. Not just trust, player to coach, coach to player, but trust of the starters and the bench together too. They've had a lot of experience playing together. So, obviously, we don't want foul trouble, serious foul trouble, but it just hampers, kind of, what you want to do both offensively and defensively. But we've got a lot of confidence right now in what our bench can do.

Q. When the players were in here, Bryce got a lot of questions about being the coach's son. What were those discussions like with him when he was deciding where he wanted to go to school? What was that conversation like?
COACH ALFORD: First, his older brother Kory, obviously, was playing for us at New Mexico. So they have a very close relationship, and I think he leaned on his brother a lot. But I think Bryce always wanted to play for dad. I feel very blessed, and that's an honor. So he always wanted me to handle the recruitment. So I'm sitting there in New Mexico, and I'm watching this individual evolve at La Cueva High School. The recruitment was over, and I wasn't letting anybody call. I just basically handled his recruitment. Once he told me he wanted to play for me, it was going to be where I was at. Obviously, that was New Mexico, and then when the UCLA situation happened and I got the opportunity to do that -- and there was a lot of talks, obviously, within our family before accepting the position or anything else. It was something that both Kory and Bryce had to be good with, and they were both excited about the chance to be at UCLA and Los Angeles.

Q. Kind of a followup on that. Ron Hunter was saying yesterday that what they did in the tournament was even more special for him because he was able to do it with his son. You've been a part of so many tournaments. Does it make it more special when you've got, not just Bryce, but Kory on your team and especially seeing what Bryce did yesterday?
COACH ALFORD: Yeah, you've always got the coach hat on. You get to wear two hats as well. You don't always get to wear the dad hat. With Kory, this is his fourth NCAA Tournament. Kory won three tournament championships, two league championships. It's been incredible being with him the last four years. Bryce has had two really good seasons, starting his career off at UCLA. That's special. After you've done it for as long as I've done it, both as a player and now as a coach and you're doing it with everybody else's children, it's nice too that when you've got -- like Bryce wearing 20. Bryce wears 20 because Dean Oliver took him under his wings when we first got to Iowa, and Dean Oliver wore 20, and I've got Dean Oliver's dad in attendance last night at our game. It's those types of things when you see them and they're this big and now they're grown and mature and they're young man and now they're playing, and then obviously you have a game like that, where Bryce does the things he did last night. It's fun. It's exciting. It's always fun to go back and watch tape, obviously, when your son does things like that. But we still have fun with it. As I told him, most 3s I ever made, I only had the three-point line one year, that's all I got it. My senior year in college. I didn't have it in high school and got one year in college, but the most I ever made was eight. The dad in me says you made eight, son, because the ninth one never did go in the basket. You get credit for it. The coach in me says, okay, I'll give you credit because without that ninth one, we wouldn't have advanced. Coach says you got nine, but when I put my dad hat on, it's still 8-8.

Q. You made seven in the National Championship Game, though. I looked it up. Your son was talking about you pointed out the Bryce Drew and the Homer Drew connection. Could you talk just a little bit about that.
COACH ALFORD: Obviously, growing up in Indiana and knowing the Drew family, especially getting to know the Drew family as I got into coaching. My first job was at Manchester College, and now Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana. So the Drew family, and Bryce in particular playing for Valparaiso at that time, that's who you've got to follow in Northeast Indiana. Obviously, a lot of Indiana fans and a sprinkling of Purdue fans. But you enjoyed watching what was going on at Valpo (Valparaiso) because of Bryce, who was so talented. I got to know them very well. They were an incredible family. And then just started following them, now that I've been in it 24 years, just started following them with Scott going on to Baylor and Bryce playing in the NBA and now obviously going to be the assistant coach under his dad and being the head coach now at Valpo, you still follow them. So having the same name, and then I can remember we're at Iowa and going to play Valpo, I think, in an NIT game in our building, and Bryce is like just a little guy. The year before, one or two or three years before, Bryce Drew had made that famous shot. I think maybe against Ole Miss, if I'm not mistaken. And my Bryce reenacted that. When they came into their shootaround, my Bryce reenacted that entire scene, which was really funny, I think, for the Drew family. But they're coach's kids. They're gym rats. They follow basketball. You talk about basketball at the dinner table. It's just a part of you. So with the Drew family and everything they did, those were always talked about at the dinner table at that time.

Q. Just what differences have you seen in UAB from the first time you guys played them till now?
COACH ALFORD: Obviously, (William) Lee didn't play in Game 1. So that's a big adjustment because he's an outstanding freshman. They didn't have Lee in Game 1. And they were young, as were we. They were even younger. But I think you had two young, inexperienced teams in the Bahamas that have -- both teams now have grown and matured. Both teams are playing at a higher level. Any time your youth has some success and they get some confidence, you can get on a roll. I think we've won 5 out of 6. They've won 4 in a row. You've got two teams that's kind of growing up. As we've watched this thing evolve, we've got two teams growing up. That's what makes this very exciting for tomorrow because you've got two teams that really believe in themselves a lot more than what you did in November. It's not so much the personnel that's different for either team, other than Lee, but I do think players are playing better because they've had, what is it, maybe 20 more games under their belt, and they've been able to grow from those experiences.

Q. Steve, it's kind of a joke but also seriously wondering how you handle it. Do coaches' kids always have green lights to shoot? How do you approach that?
COACH ALFORD: Opposing coaches like to say that, and most opposing coaches that don't have kids that can shoot. I've heard a lot of opposing coaches mention that coaching kids have green lights to shoot. Those are usually dads that don't have sons that can shoot. So it kind of falls back on the dad maybe more than it does anything else. No, he's no different than anybody else. Like this year, talking about the last question, I think shot selection early in the year, Bryce included, but our entire team, we took some ill-advised shots early in the season because these were new roles. Bryce came off the bench last year. Norman (Powell) was the third option. Tony came off the bench. Now all of a sudden, those guys are kind of the one, two, three options in the offense, and sometimes you can pressure yourself into taking tougher shots, and I think that happened. I think Bryce is shooting something like maybe 60 percent or better over his last 25, 30 three-point attempts. Probably prior to that, he was more in the 30 percentile. It has to do with learning what a real high quality shot is. No, Bryce doesn't get a greener light because he's my son. Bryce might have a brighter green than others just because he can make shots. He's our -- he's one of our better shooters on the team. Though he runs the team at the point position -- he and Isaac (Hamilton) kind of go back and forth with that role -- but he is one of the guys on our team who can make shots. If you're a guy that can make shots, it goes back to the old saying, there's shot takers and there's shot makers. We want guys taking shots that can make shots, and he's one of the guys on the team that can make shots.

Q. Steve, can you talk about the decision to play Tom (Thomas Welsh) down the stretch last night and what his development has kind of meant for just the frontcourt and for Tony (Parker) even.
COACH ALFORD: He's been tremendous, and he and Tony battling each other at practice has been great. Tony battled some finals. We've been taking finals most of this week. We took them before we came here. We've been taking them while we've been here. So I thought Tony, for whatever reason, he was run down a bit. We tried to give him rest yesterday after the game, give him a lot of rest today, and I think he'll be good to go as our finals conclude. Our finals literally concluded right before our bus took off for the hotel. So it's a little bit different, a little unique. Tony will bounce back big in tomorrow's game, but it's good having Thomas who's really developed into someone we can go to. If it's Tony that's struggling or someone else struggling on the team, he's a big now that rebounds the ball and is a very good screener, and his offense has continued to evolve at a very good rate. We're really pleased with him.

Q. Steve, you talked about ill advised shots. I was wondering what your immediate thought was when you saw Bryce take that last shot, two guys kind of coming at him really moving fast, and there was some time left.
COACH ALFORD: Yeah, probably in hindsight wasn't a great shot, but he was shot. He was 8 for 10, I think, at that process. We ran a quick play, trying to get him a three in the corner. They guarded him really well, and he made a really good play of coming off the three-point line just to catch the pass from Norman and then dribbled out. I guess I would say, hindsight, yeah, could he have kept dribbling or made another pass? That would have been great. Then I don't know the outcome. At least I know the outcome here. If you look at it, Kevon (Looney) did get the rebound. We were in good position to get that putback. Might have been a tie game instead of a win. But that's who Bryce is. Bryce is a gamer. Bryce has got a tough -- he's got a moxie to him. He's not afraid to take the big shots. When you're in a situation late game, what guys -- I think he'd already made three 3s in the last four minutes of that game already. You want guys, they're not always going to make it, but you want guys wanting to take shots. There's some players that like that role. There's some guys that don't want any part of that role. Bryce is one of those guys of mine taking the tough free throw, taking the tough shot, making the tough play. If you ask me, probably not the best shot selection, but I'm glad he shot it.

Q. I was wondering if you'd coached your sons the way your father coached you, or did you tweak the process based on what you might have liked or not liked?
COACH ALFORD: I told dad that. I haven't kicked him out of practice yet. I haven't kicked either one of them out of practice yet. Dad would tell you I was kicked out of seven practices by my dad and I think seven or eight by Coach Knight. Dad would tell you -- and I'm sure Coach Knight would tell you -- I was probably a lot more stubborn than both Kory and Bryce, and I would give looks or have a little snippet back that I needed to be kicked out of practice. Fortunately, they're really good young men to begin with. To be honest with you, that's what makes it easier. That's not an easy dynamic, especially at this level, especially at UCLA, in Los Angeles. That's not an easy dynamic for coach-dad or player-sons. It's not an easy dynamic. It's what we wanted to do. It's what we grew up. I was a coach's kid. I had Coach Craig Neal on my staff for nine years at Iowa and New Mexico. He was a coach's kid. Now I've got Coach Schilling on my staff now. He was a coach's kid. So I've surrounded myself with people who aren't just knowledgeable about the game, but they also can help me -- like Coach (Ed) Schilling, I've kind of put him in charge of Bryce. So he spends a lot of time with Bryce so where somebody who understands that dynamic, but it's not me doing it all the time because, obviously, I've got to be concerned about the whole group all the time. I've kind of pushed Bryce a lot to Coach Schilling because of the trust I have in Coach Schilling but also because Coach Schilling understands what it's like to be a coach's kid. They haven't warranted being kicked out. I hope they don't ever warrant being kicked out of practice, but I would tell my dad and Coach Knight I didn't warrant all of those kick-outs, but there's some of them that I did. It's part of what we are. It's how we've been wired. I'm very blessed because not all, obviously, sons want to play for their father maybe, and I'm blessed that my two children chose to play for me and our teams. That's a great blessing, and it's humbling, and we've had incredible experiences to date.

Q. You mentioned earlier that some guys like to take that big shot at the end or big free throw, and some don't. Is that something that a coach instills or a father instills, or is it nature takes its course?
COACH ALFORD: I think, just as you develop as a player, you probably develop that or don't develop it. Bryce has always had that probably because he's always played against bigger, stronger, older guys. Growing up, just trying to make a play when he was playing up could be difficult, and then as he matured and got older and got stronger, became the go-to guy like at La Cueva High School. He had to make big shot after big shot at that high school. So he understands that role. Last year that wasn't his role. We had guys like Jordan Adams, who made the big shot against Arizona in the conference tournament game. Or Kyle Anderson, we had had guys who were way ahead of him as far as the pecking order of who's going to take those big shots. I think, when you look at our team, we've got five guys in double figures. We've got a lot of balance, but Bryce is definitely one of those guys, in the last four minutes, even though point guard, even though running the offense, he's going to be one of those guys that is going to be thought of that he could take the big shot because he doesn't mind the risk and he doesn't mind the risk of failure, and that's who you have to have in those positions. They're stronger. They're tougher mentally. If it doesn't go well, that's just the way it was. They like the risk, and they like the opportunity and the challenge and the chance. They think more times than not they're going to make the shot.

Q. I wonder if, when your sons were small, you ever worried for them or maybe even for a moment wished they would do something else, like the violin or something like that?
COACH ALFORD: I don't know if that was ever a wish, it was really just being a dad. Part of being a dad is that Kory -- both of them were born when I was at Manchester College, but they were really, really small. Then we go to Missouri State, Southwest Missouri State, then University of Iowa and on to University of New Mexico. That's just the business their dad was in. So when they wanted to come hang out with dad, they're coming to a gym. So they get to just run around the gymnasium. I remember my dad was on my staff at Iowa and we're playing one year at Arizona State, and dad, who obviously is grandpa, he comes up to me, and we're at Kentucky practice on the floor. He goes, hey, I don't want you to look now, but your two sons are on the catwalk. I go catwalk? And I look up, and here are my two sons on the top of the ceiling. The last thing I want to do is tell grandma and mom is that their two boys are on the catwalk. So I'm screaming at them to get down and stop. That's what they do. That's what I did. I grew up in Martinsville, Indiana, then Newcastle, chasing my dad. I was locked in lockers. Players locked me in lockers. They played tricks on me. They threw me in showers. It's what I did. I grew up being a coach's son. To hang out with dad, you had to do that at the gym, and that's what my two sons did. So it's not surprising they got into basketball and wanted to play basketball. I tried to learn lessons from my father. I never put pressure on them to play the game. I never told them they had to play the game. I just did what my dad did. I gave them access. They always had keys to the gym. They always had a ball. They always had a basket. It was going to be up to them whether they wanted to play the game and whether they wanted to fall in love with it, and they just happened to fall in love with it.

Q. I don't know if you saw the comments from the young man who was called for the goaltending yesterday. He almost choked up up here.
COACH ALFORD: Absolutely.

Q. He said it was all my fault. What would you say to him?
COACH ALFORD: It's not all his fault. There's many more plays in the game than just the goaltending call. I look at Norman Powell, the leader of our team. He's had a phenomenal year. With a minute to go, he dribbles off his foot, down five with the ball, and they go down and dunk it, and now we're down seven. I'm thinking about how Norman would be feeling. It's the same way. Or how Bryce would be feeling if he had the game he had and he takes a tough shot, and it doesn't go in. They get it. We have to foul. That's basketball. So I was very impressed with the young man. He's a great player. I've coached long enough and played long enough that I've been on both sides of it. You hate it when seasons or even careers come to an end. It happened to me at Missouri State in Arch Madness in St. Louis, my first team at Missouri State ended on a three-point shot that was over the shoulder, and it was his first make in his entire career, and the guy was a senior, and my guys are done. And I had two seniors on the team that their careers were over. But that one play doesn't -- one, it doesn't make your career, doesn't make your season. For him to be emotional, that tells me how much he cares. Don't harbor that because he is a very, very good player. I can tell you, we really prepared for him because of the respect we have for him. But there are a lot of mistakes that are made in that game. That was just one of them. That's a tough mistake not to make because he's really doing what he's wired to do, and that's go get a loose ball and get a rebound, and he's really good at that.
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