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UCLA basketball is family affair for the Alfords

Head coach Steve Alford of the UCLA Bruins

Head coach Steve Alford of the UCLA Bruins talks with his son Bryce Alford during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 Tournament against the Arizona Wildcats at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 13, 2015 in Las Vegas. Credit: Getty Images / Ethan Miller

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There was the time, Steve Alford said, when he was coaching Iowa and, during a practice at Arizona State, he learned that his two boys were dangerously traversing the catwalk on the ceiling. "So I'm screaming at them to get down and stop," he said.

There was another time when Iowa was hosting Valparaiso in an NIT game and his younger son Bryce, only about 8, did a terrific running, sliding imitation of the game-winning shot that Valparaiso's Bryce Drew made against Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

And then there was the time when Bryce Alford, a UCLA sophomore playing for his dad, took a wild three-point shot that resulted in a goaltending call and gave the Bruins a one-point NCAA Tournament win over SMU.

The family remembers them all as if they were yesterday, especially the latter, which actually happened Thursday and set up Saturday afternoon's game against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

It is all part of the unique life of a basketball family. "Being a coach's kid, it's not something I can really explain to anybody unless you are a coach's kid," said Bryce, whose brother Kory also is on the UCLA team.

One guy who can relate is his dad, who is himself a coach's kid. Steve played for his father in high school and, in his recollection, was kicked out of practice eight times for various transgressions.

When Steve was at Iowa, his dad was an assistant coach, and was the one who noticed Bryce and Kory in the rafters.

Both Steve and Bryce are aware of and unfazed by the pressures of their high-profile basketball relationship.

"Bryce always wanted to play for Dad," Steve said, recalling that when the guard excelled at La Cueva High in New Mexico (Steve was coaching the University of New Mexico), "the recruitment was over and I wasn't letting anybody call."

Besides, Bryce said, "If I didn't play for my dad, he'd never get to watch me play. That's something that we share that's very special."

They shared joy and relief when UCLA got the benefit of the most controversial call Thursday in the NCAA Tournament. "Probably in hindsight, it wasn't a great shot," Steve said.

But it worked out.

"I'm actually happy they did call it because they beat us in [November] and we do have a little payback for them and we want to play them," said Robert Brown, UAB's high scorer.

Consider Saturday's game the Gene Bartow Bowl in memory of the man who succeeded John Wooden as UCLA coach, then left in 1977 to establish the athletic program at UAB.

But it is just another day in the life of the Alford family, with Steve proud to report he never has had to kick either of his sons out of practice.


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