UCLA fires Steve Alford as basketball coach after 6 seasons
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
Monday, December 31
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Steve Alford was fired as UCLA basketball coach in his sixth season on Monday, with the Bruins mired in a four-game skid that included losses at home to Belmont and Liberty.
Athletic director Dan Guerrero said assistant Murry Bartow will serve as interim coach through the end of the season.
UCLA is 7-6 and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament despite a talented roster that includes sophomore Kris Wilkes and freshman Moses Brown.
Alford’s final game was a 73-58 loss to Liberty on Saturday, the worst home defeat in his tenure. The Bruins committed 24 turnovers and missed a season-high 22 3-pointers. Alford called it the most disappointing loss in his 28-year coaching career.
It’s unusual for UCLA to fire a coach in the middle of the season, but with the Bruins set to open Pac-12 play Thursday against Stanford at home, Guerrero is clearly hoping it spurs a turnaround.
“While Steve led us to three Sweet 16 appearances, we simply have not been performing at a consistent level and our struggles up to this point in the season do not bode well for the future,” Guerrero said in a statement.
Guerrero said the terms of Alford’s contract will be honored by UCLA Athletics, exclusively using department-generated funds.
He said a national search for a new head coach will begin immediately, with former Bruins player and current Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers assisting. Myers was a reserve on UCLA’s last national championship team in 1995.
Bartow has previous head coaching experience, having spent six seasons at Alabama-Birmingham from 1996-2002. He had a 103-83 record with one NCAA Tournament appearance. He also ran programs at East Tennessee State and South Florida.
Bartow, 57, was in the midst of his first season as Alford’s assistant.
His late father, Gene, had the unenviable task of succeeding John Wooden at UCLA. The elder Bartow had a 52-9 record from 1975-77, including a Final Four appearance in 1976. He left to start the athletic program at UAB.
Alford’s troubles had been mounting since the season began.
On Dec. 15, the Bruins lost to mid-major Belmont at Pauley Pavilion.
Four days after that, UCLA lost by 29 points at Cincinnati. The current skid, in which the Bruins have lost by an average of 15 points, is the longest since the end of the 2015-16 season and the first time the Bruins have dropped four straight nonconference games since 2010-11.
Alford had a 124-63 record in Westwood after taking over the program in March 2013. The 54-year-old coach won one Pac-12 tournament title but never a regular-season league title, and made four NCAA Tournament appearances, including Sweet 16 berths in his first two years.
But the drop-off was swift for a school that owns a record 11 national championships. The Bruins lost to St. Bonaventure in the First Four last season, the first time in school history that UCLA was relegated to a play-in game.
They failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16, when the team went 15-17 for the program’s fourth losing record since 1948 when Wooden became coach.
“I’m extremely appreciative to everybody at UCLA for what has been a tremendous run and the chance to work with such special student-athletes and coaches,” Alford said in a statement issued by the school. “While I wish we could have had more success, my family and I are so grateful for our time in Westwood. We wish this program nothing but the best. I sincerely hope that the UCLA community will rally around this team, its players and the coaching staff as Pac-12 play begins.”
While critics believe UCLA underperformed during Alford’s tenure, talent was never the issue.
He was a solid recruiter, bringing in highly regarded classes in recent years. But as with many programs, several players stayed just one season in Westwood before leaving for the NBA, including current Lakers guard Lonzo Ball and the Indiana Pacers’ TJ Leaf.
Eleven UCLA players were drafted during Alford’s tenure, including seven first-round picks.
In March 2013, Alford signed an $18.2 million, seven-year contract to coach the Bruins, replacing the fired Ben Howland. Alford’s decision to take the UCLA job came just three days after he had signed a 10-year extension at New Mexico.
Alford wasn’t a popular hire among UCLA supporters, who didn’t think he was an upgrade from Howland, who took the Bruins to three Final Four appearances. They wanted a bigger name. Boosters targeted Alford in subsequent seasons, with planes carrying banners that urged his firing flying over campus and petitions circulated online urging his ouster.
Alford wrote an open letter of apology to Bruins fans and returned a one-year contract extension signed after his first season.
During his introductory news conference at UCLA, Alford was asked about his handling of Pierre Pierce when he coached at Iowa. Pierce was charged with raping a female Iowa athlete during the 2001-02 season and Alford staunchly defended him. Pierre later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was suspended from the team.
Alford said he “did everything he was told to do” in response to the news conference question. Two weeks after being hired at UCLA, he apologized for declaring Pierce’s innocence before legal proceedings played out.
Last season at UCLA began with a scandal in China, where players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were accused of shoplifting during the team’s season-opening trip. All three were suspended. Ball left school and the others sat out the rest of the season before returning without incident this season.
Alford kept his family close during his years in Westwood.
His oldest son, Kory, is in his second season as UCLA’s video and analytics coordinator.
Alford’s other son, Bryce, followed his father to UCLA from New Mexico. Skeptics accused Alford of nepotism when Bryce was groomed as the backup point guard over Zach LaVine, who now plays for the Chicago Bulls.
Bryce Alford left UCLA as the school’s leading career 3-point shooter and was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection as a senior. He currently plays in the NBA’s G League.
Alford was a high school and college star in his native Indiana, where he played for Bob Knight and won the 1987 national championship.
After playing four years in the NBA, he embarked on a coaching career. He began at Manchester University in Indiana, and went on to Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico.
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Emotion-reading tech fails the racial bias test
January 3, 2019
Author: Lauren Rhue, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Analytics, Wake Forest University
Disclosure statement: Lauren Rhue does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Facial recognition technology has progressed to point where it now interprets emotions in facial expressions. This type of analysis is increasingly used in daily life. For example, companies can use facial recognition software to help with hiring decisions. Other programs scan the faces in crowds to identify threats to public safety.
Unfortunately, this technology struggles to interpret the emotions of black faces. My new study, published last month, shows that emotional analysis technology assigns more negative emotions to black men’s faces than white men’s faces.
This isn’t the first time that facial recognition programs have been shown to be biased. Google labeled black faces as gorillas. Cameras identified Asian faces as blinking. Facial recognition programs struggled to correctly identify gender for people with darker skin.
My work contributes to a growing call to better understand the hidden bias in artificial intelligence software.
To examine the bias in the facial recognition systems that analyze people’s emotions, I used a data set of 400 NBA player photos from the 2016 to 2017 season, because players are similar in their clothing, athleticism, age and gender. Also, since these are professional portraits, the players look at the camera in the picture.
I ran the images through two well-known types of emotional recognition software. Both assigned black players more negative emotional scores on average, no matter how much they smiled.
For example, consider the official NBA pictures of Darren Collison and Gordon Hayward. Both players are smiling, and, according to the facial recognition and analysis program Face++, Darren Collison and Gordon Hayward have similar smile scores – 48.7 and 48.1 out of 100, respectively.
However, Face++ rates Hayward’s expression as 59.7 percent happy and 0.13 percent angry and Collison’s expression as 39.2 percent happy and 27 percent angry. Collison is viewed as nearly as angry as he is happy and far angrier than Hayward – despite the facial recognition program itself recognizing that both players are smiling.
In contrast, Microsoft’s Face API viewed both men as happy. Still, Collison is viewed as less happy than Hayward, with 98 and 93 percent happiness scores, respectively. Despite his smile, Collison is even scored with a small amount of contempt, whereas Hayward has none.
Across all the NBA pictures, the same pattern emerges. On average, Face++ rates black faces as twice as angry as white faces. Face API scores black faces as three times more contemptuous than white faces. After matching players based on their smiles, both facial analysis programs are still more likely to assign the negative emotions of anger or contempt to black faces.
Stereotyped by AI
My study shows that facial recognition programs exhibit two distinct types of bias.
First, black faces were consistently scored as angrier than white faces for every smile. Face++ showed this type of bias. Second, black faces were always scored as angrier if there was any ambiguity about their facial expression. Face API displayed this type of disparity. Even if black faces are partially smiling, my analysis showed that the systems assumed more negative emotions as compared to their white counterparts with similar expressions. The average emotional scores were much closer across races, but there were still noticeable differences for black and white faces.
This observation aligns with other research, which suggests that black professionals must amplify positive emotions to receive parity in their workplace performance evaluations. Studies show that people perceive black men as more physically threatening than white men, even when they are the same size.
Some researchers argue that facial recognition technology is more objective than humans. But my study suggests that facial recognition reflects the same biases that people have. Black men’s facial expressions are scored with emotions associated with threatening behaviors more often than white men, even when they are smiling. There is good reason to believe that the use of facial recognition could formalize preexisting stereotypes into algorithms, automatically embedding them into everyday life.
Until facial recognition assesses black and white faces similarly, black people may need to exaggerate their positive facial expressions – essentially smile more – to reduce ambiguity and potentially negative interpretations by the technology.
Although innovative, artificial intelligence can perpetrate and exacerbate existing power dynamics, leading to disparate impact across racial/ethnic groups. Some societal accountability is necessary to ensure fairness to all groups because facial recognition, like most artificial intelligence, is often invisible to the people most affected by its decisions.
Dr. Droegemeier goes to Washington? What could happen when a respected scientist joins Trump’s White House
Updated January 3, 2019 6.00am EST
Author: Daniel Sarewitz, Professor of Science and Society, Co-Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University
Disclosure statement: Daniel Sarewitz has received funding from the US National Science Foundation to study the politics of science and technology policy. He is a registered Democrat and has contributed to Democratic candidates at the local, state, and national levels.
Partners: Arizona State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Leaders of the scientific community – most of whom are also Democrats – voiced relief when the Trump administration nominated Kelvin Droegemeier to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology last August. Four months later, Droegemeier has been confirmed by the Senate, and he can finally step into a position that has been leaderless since Trump assumed office.
Droegemeier, a well-respected meteorologist specializing in severe weather such as thunderstorms, has also served on the advisory board of the U.S. National Science Foundation. He will bring a mainstream scientific voice into an administration that is often portrayed as somewhere between apathetic and hostile about matters relating to science.
But those who expect Droegemeier to provide any sort of counterweight to administration policies will likely be disappointed. The recent departures of Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly tell the tale, yet again, of the fate of those who push back against this president, however tough-minded they may be. Perhaps more importantly, a historical perspective on presidential science advising shows that the advisors’ effectiveness is determined not by how much they know, but by how closely they are in step with the political priorities of the administration they serve.
Science advisers are on the team
The role of presidential science adviser was formalized in the shadow of the Sputnik launch, when President Eisenhower named MIT president James R. Killian to the newly created post of “special assistant to the president for science and technology” in November 1957. Killian, who in fact was not a scientist but had a mere bachelor’s degree in management, was expected not only to lend expertise to the White House but, according to a New York Times article at the time, to “allay public fears concerning scientific achievements by the Soviet Union.”
Killian helped to oversee a rapid expansion of government investment in science, an agenda that satisfied both his scientific colleagues and the political aims of President Eisenhower. But such alignment of science advice and presidential politics is far from inevitable.
Several years later, President Kennedy’s science adviser, Jerome Wiesner, advised against sending a man to the moon, counsel that was decisively rejected, with momentous historical consequences. A decade later, President Nixon got so fed up with advice he was getting on missile defense and supersonic transport that in 1973 he eliminated the science adviser post.
With the support of Congress, Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, reestablished the position of science adviser in 1976, as head of a newly created Office of Science and Technology Policy. But the age of innocence was over, and only the most naïve observers could continue to believe that presidential science advice could somehow be held separate from national politics.
Under President Reagan, science adviser George Keyworth II, a nuclear physicist, aggressively advocated for the president’s highly controversial “star wars” missile defense system and notably attacked the news media as “a narrow fringe element on the far left of our society” because of alleged bias against administration policies.
More recently, President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, also a physicist, was an outspoken advocate for the president’s energy and environmental policies. In their times, Keyworth and Holdren were both subjected to energetic critique from those in politics and the media who disagreed with the positions that each advanced.
Most notable in this regard, however, was John Marburger, also a physicist, and science adviser to Republican President George W. Bush. Marburger in fact was a Democrat, a respected scientist and university administrator, and unlike Keyworth and Holdren was a low-profile player in White House politics. But he was skewered by Democrats in Congress and their allies in the scientific community for failing to oppose Bush policies on issues such as stem cell research and climate change – even though he would surely have been fired had he done so.
Science advisers are not apolitical nerds, high-level versions of Bill Nye the Science Guy on tap to answer a president’s questions about why the sky is blue or how a bar-code scanner works. Science advisers are political players on a political team, and above all, Trump’s choice of Droegemeier must be understood in that vein.
A challenge ahead for nominee
Yet Droegemeier represents a somewhat bizarre choice. Trump could have chosen a science adviser with expertise relevant to administration policy priorities, such as defense buildup, restoring the manufacturing base or undoing environmental regulations. Given his skepticism about climate change, Trump could even have chosen a science adviser with similar views. Early rumors suggested he would do just that.
Instead, in Droegemeier he has selected an expert on weather and climate who seems – although his public statements on the matter are few – to agree with most other climate scientists that human activities are contributing to a changing climate. So Droegemeier comes into his job holding a view that sharply contradicts a conspicuous public position taken by the president. As we have seen, this is not a proven formula for success.
Why did Trump pick Droegemeier, then? For one thing, within the Trump administration he likely has the support of NASA director and fellow Oklahoman Jim Bridenstine, at least in part because Droegemeier supported Bridenstine’s nomination for the NASA directorship by providing public assurances that Bridenstine was not a climate skeptic. For another, Droegemeier has the endorsement of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a powerful Trump ally who is a climate skeptic.
So perhaps Droegemeier’s selection was just a matter of smart political triangulation: A man who has the confidence of political leaders of a state where Trump won with more than 65 percent of the vote, and also just happens to have unimpeachable scientific credentials, is a rare political commodity.
Now that he’s confirmed by the Senate, whatever role Droegemeier ends up playing will be one of service to the political agenda of the Trump administration. Given that Democrats have over the past 15 years or more sought to portray themselves as the party of science, Droegemeier will find it difficult to maintain his stellar reputation as a scientist while also advocating policies that Democrats and their allies in the scientific community oppose. He should expect severe political weather for the next few years. Perhaps the most interesting question is whether the fiercest gales will come from the Democrats, now that they are back in charge of the House of Representatives, or from Droegmeier’s unpredictable boss in the White House.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Aug. 17, 2018.