Nevada head coach Steve Alford addressed his decision to dismiss AJ Bramah from the team Tuesday morning on the Wolf Pack's pre-game show with John Ramey prior to tip-off against George Mason at the Crossover Classic.
Alford did not go into details on the dismissal, which stemmed from "conduct detrimental to the team," per a department release, but he did say it was a tough decision and is hopeful Bramah stays in school and graduates.
"It's always unfortunate," Alford said on the Wolf Pack pre-game show. "I've been doing this a long time, and I'm in it for the guys, I'm in it for the student-athletes, and I think our job is to do everything we can to help. We'll continue to help AJ as he continues with schooling. He'll have accessibility to tutors and academics and those type of things, and hopefully he'll stay with it. He's awfully close to getting his degree. But there comes a point, and we talk about this all the time, that there's got to be consequence to things that are just outside of our control as a program. There's always going to be consequences. As a leader, I've got to step up and sometimes make some really tough decisions. We just felt it was time that we removed him from the basketball side of it and move on. And that's what we'll do tonight."
Bramah played four games at Nevada after transferring in from Robert Morris in the offseason. Bramah left Robert Morris in the middle of last season and originally committed to Arizona State as a transfer before leaving the Sun Devils' program after two months. Alford continued on to say the Wolf Pack is in the middle of "a storm" after its fourth straight loss, the latest being a 102-75 defeat to South Dakota State, which is 5-1 with its lone loss against ranked Alabama.
"I think it's the best team we've played today," Alford said. "I think they're really good, and they've got a chance to have one of those very special years. Right now, it's learning. We've got to continue to learn. Coaches have to do a better job. Players have to do a better job. There's got to be a trust across the board. And I think we're going to build on that. I really do. I think we're in a storm right now. I told the team that. We're in a storm and adversity has hit us right smack in the face. We've never lost four games in a row since I've been here. This is the longest losing streak I've had since my year two at UCLA."
Alford said he did get some positive reinforcement from his family Tuesday as his son, Bryce, reminded him UCLA went to the Sweet 16 in 2014-15 after losing five straight non-conference games, although three of those contests were to top-10 teams in the nation. Each were against Power 5 teams, which Nevada has yet to face this season.
"It's a long season," Alford said. "You just don't know what's going to happen. It's really how you handle the storms. We try to teach our young men, it's not just the storms on the court, it's the storms of life. A lot of times you're either coming out of the storm, you're in a storm or there's a storm coming. It's one of those three things. Right now, we're in the midst of a nasty storm. I've always felt like when you're in situations like we're in, we've lost four in a row. Not a lot of things have gone well. We've had some injuries along the way, just not a lot that has gone well. How do you handle that adversity? Because it allows you a chance to grow.
"My hope and trust is that when we pull ourselves out of this, we're going to be better for it and then we can move forward. We can really see some growth and move. But while you're in the midst of a storm, it's not fun. It's not fun as a coach. It's not fun as a competitor like our players. Hopefully they can relax tonight. We've got to get that joy back. We're just not playing with that joy that our teams play with. I know it's not easy when you're losing, playing with joy is not part of the thing that you think about. But we have to. It's a blessing that we get a chance to compete tonight. I just want to see our guys do that. We, as coaches, have to figure out, 'How we can help them execute better, both offensively and defensively?'"
Alford said he wants his players to be loose on the court, something he's not seen so far this season as the losses have piled up.
"What happens when you take that joy out of it, you get so wrapped up in 'self' that now you get locked up mentally and you unintentionally don't do those things that you need to do," Alford said. "We've really just tried overnight and through the day to day to kind of release them. 'Just relax guys, release yourself. Don't think about yourself. Think about a teammate.' And that's how you release that pressure. Our guys are very prideful guys. They're very talented, and they've been hit. A buddy of mine used to say, 'Hit him in the ear. That's where it hurts.' And we've been hit in the ear, both sides. We've had to turn the cheek. We've been hit in both ears, and it doesn't feel good. As a competitor, then you start thinking. I don't really want them thinking as much as instinctively go out and have fun. Right now, there's no emotion, there's no enthusiasm.
"You've just got to keep grinding, you've got to trust each other and you've just got to keep working as team, and it'll eventually pass and we can grow out of this."