Jordan McLaughlin Picks USC and the Battle for LA is On

Jordan McLaughlin – the four or five or four star PG out of Southern California (Etiwanda) – is staying in SoCal. USC to be exact. Not UCLA to be inexact.

And this had many a-person surprised as McLaughlin was the top available PG prospect on the West Coast. And because UCLA’s current roster is sans PG with no incoming class-o-13 help. And because former UCLA star, Darren Collison, also attended Etiwanda High. And because…well…it’s USC?

In what’s been the most notable if not first head-to-head recruiting battle in the Enfield-Alford era of Los Angeles, Enfield wins. Which is what’s got everyone up in arms and has offered some the opportunity to further question the hiring of Alford. Here he’s missed out on a local prospect of promising talent at the position he most coveted. On the surface this appears to not only be a mano-e-mano loss to a bitter rival, but also failure to complete a roster. Ouch.

Now all week I’ve found myself mired in a myriad of Pac-12 coaching rankings. You can read a good one here. The one component that consistently arises in these debates is where to rank Mr. Alford. Most want to push him right down to the latter half of lead men, swimming with the Bones and Robinsons of the Pac (for the record he ranks fifth on my list based on career achievement and program expectations). By many accounts, he’s already hated and he’s destined to fail – if he hasn’t already. Yet amidst these conversations I contemplated the devil’s advocacy.

He’s won 385 games (3rd most in the Pac). He’s danced seven times (3rd most in the Pac). He’s won five NCAA tournament games (5th most in the Pac). He’s won four conference titles. He’s coaching his own damn son!

And then McLaughlin chose to Fight On and my position was dissolved, the discussion continuing to pile on Alford and a far-from-grace-UCLA program. The opening line to the Los Angeles Times’ article on the commitment:

UCLA‘s drought in attracting top-rated talent at point guard continues.

Before ever breaking any news, the Times was already dumping along with everyone else.

But let’s, for a second, refrain from dogging the coach everyone loves to hate and recognize that the Battle for Los Angeles is on. Andy Enfield and all 41 of his career wins has waltzed into town and won the first battle. Competition begets success so how can we not see this as a possible tipping point for UCLA? Or at least the wake up call that never rang on Ben Howland’s phone?

Alas, this should be more about kudos to Enfield and staff. They have their first major piece of the Galen Dunk Center:

And while it’s beyond evident that the UCLA job is a coveted gig, it is by no means an easy one. This Trojan splash serves as exhibit A that it’s only getting tougher.

I played devil’s advocate in ranking the Pac-12 coaches because Steve Alford is a good coach. I applaud Andy Enfield’s first recruiting success – a coups if you’re willing to accept that LA is Alford’s to lose – because it’s a great pick up.

But to cite this as Alford’s ineptitude is premature. He’s no doubt got a battle on his hands but maybe we see how this thing plays out? Or at least for a little more than 5 months?

After all, UCLA’s next coach needs to fail in Boston first, right?


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