By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) He can change the team colors of his shirt and tie, but Steve Alford’s reptilian scales will always lie underneath.
First day on the job, and he wasted no time in lying about his role in protecting a violent criminal and intimidating the victim. Alford was quick to claim the mantle of John Wooden — sounding more like callow name-dropper than worthy heir – and was then asked if he thought his purported idol would have handled the Pierre Pierce sexual assault case similarly.
“That was an instance that happened years ago,” he said. “I followed everything that the University of Iowa, the administration, the lawyers that were hired…I followed everything that I was told to do.”
The lawyer for Pierce’s victim disagrees. Jerry Crawford told KXNO radio, “Perhaps the amnesia of walking away from a new 10-year contract for a new seven-year contract has clouded his memory somewhat.”
“It gives a whole new meaning to ‘self-serving,’” Crawford said. “Now that Alford said what he said at the press conference, tomorrow’s story should be all about the fact that it’s just not true, that he didn’t do everything the university told him.”
What’s worse is the whopper Alford dropped in the breakout sessions after his oily performance at the lectern. LA times reporter Chris Foster told The Boers and Bernstein Show yesterday that he asked Alford about his comment at Big Ten Media Day in 2003 in which the coach declared: “I totally believe he is innocent. I believed it from day one, and I still believe it.”
Foster said that Alford’s explanation Tuesday was that “nothing had been proven at that point.”
Except Pierce’s guilt, that is. At the time of Alford’s staunch defense of his player, a plea deal had been agreed upon and was being finalized. And he knew it.
This is one of those rare cases when someone was lying then, and is lying now.
“Pierce was one of two students at the University of Iowa that was involved in this,” Crawford said. “The other was the victim. As a prominent employee – and one of the five highest-paid employees at the university, Steve Alford has a very high responsibility both ethically, legally, morally, to represent all the students. When he says Pierre Pierce is innocent, he’s known it from day one, there’s nothing to this, he is by definition calling the victim a liar.”
Crawford also wasn’t buying any possibility that Alford was caught off guard Tuesday by inquiries about the Pierce incident, and was simply unprepared.
“One of two things is true,” he said. “Either (UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero) committed athletic director malpractice by not adequately vetting the issue both with impartial third parties and with Alford himself … or (Alford) was being disingenuous in saying what he said. Because there’s no way it couldn’t be fresh in his memory of this if he was properly vetted on the topic. So that doesn’t make any sense at all.”
So much of this doesn’t. Bruins fan-sites and alumni back-channels are already starting to wonder how a heritage college basketball program decided to hire one of the worst people in the sport. There is more to be learned, too, if there is healthy professional curiosity about Alford.
“There are a lot of side stories that will come out if the Los Angeles media decides they want to be involved in this,” Crawford said. “I think this is exactly the kind of community where it could escalate.”
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.