LOS ANGELES (AP) - New UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford is apologizing for the way he handled a sexual assault charge involving a player on his team in 2002 when he coached at Iowa.
Alford says he ``instinctively and mistakenly'' came to the defense of Hawkeyes player Pierre Pierce before he knew all the facts. Pierce pleaded guilty to a charge of assault involving injury. He was kicked off the Iowa team in 2005 after another incident involving an ex-girlfriend.
Alford says he is apologizing for publicly proclaiming Pierce's innocence before the legal process had run its course. He says his reaction was inappropriate and insensitive to the female victim. Alford says he's learned and grown from that experience, and he wants the UCLA community to know that he would handle the situation differently today.
Alford made his comments in a statement distributed Thursday through UCLA.

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