According to several sources, including Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, and Rivals.com, Ben Howland has been fired as the UCLA Bruins’ basketball coach after ten seasons.
While no official word has come from UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero or the athletic department, and Howland, according to the Sunday, March 24 edition of the Los Angeles Times, has said that no one has talked to him, it is more or less a foregone conclusion that Howland’s time in Westwood is over.
Especially after the Bruins’ 83-63 humiliation at the hands of Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament, which in the grand scheme of things was only the tip of this ship-sinking iceberg as in all cases of employees being sacked, the negatives outweighed the positives.
And one would be a fool not to acknowledge that the UCLA basketball program had many positives under Howland, number one on that list being the three consecutive Final Fours that the team reached from 2006-2008, which was the most number of Final Fours by a UCLA coach not named John Wooden.
As well as a 233-107 record that the now (or very soon-to-be-official) former coach attained in his ten seasons in Westwood, which includes a 121-59 mark and four regular season championships in the Pac-10/12 conference, the latest title this season being the most impressive as it was a bounce back from a sub-par, no post-season campaign and done with only eight scholarship players for the bulk of this year.
While a 25-10 overall and 13-5 record in the Pac-12 is never anything to sneeze at, as was said, the negatives usually outweigh the positives in any situation where management wants to fire an employee, and Ben Howland’s situation was no exception as grumblings and complaints abounded about quite a few issues, including:
A. The fact that while Howland was respected as a good X’s and O’s coach, many of his players disliked him as he was known for having a gruff, taskmaster-like, yelling style, which was likely a main factor in players such as Tyler Lamb, Josh Smith, J’Mison Morgan, Matt Carlino and Drew Gordon transferring; the Sports Illustrated article from 2012, “Not the UCLA Way”, which gave some details of his unpleasant persona, certainly didn’t help matters any.
B. The fact that his second-ranked recruiting class, while they did well enough on the court, did not reach expectations as some had predicted a Final Four appearance for the Bruins when the season began in November, with Shabazz Muhammad – who as sure as I am writing this will be an NBA millionaire in a few months as he is expected to go pro – Jordan Adams, and Kyle Anderson leading the way.
C. The UCLA brass was disappointed with Howland in one other thing: The failure to draw big crowds in a Pauley Pavilion that went through a huge renovation and reopened to big fanfare this season. Guerrero and the other Bruins powers-that-be want that arena filled more often than not, and they ultimately felt that Howland’s style wasn’t going to result in that.
In other words, the athletic department wanted the adage “If you build it, they (or “he” as was the original saying) will come” to apply here, and Howland was largely blamed for the fact that they weren’t coming.
The bottom line in all of this is that UCLA feels that like what happened with the football team, a culture change is needed with their flagship and iconic basketball program, which they feel will result in the success that the Bruin pig skinners enjoyed this past year; therefore Howland is being shown the door, complete with a $3.5 million buyout package as he was signed through 2018.
As for who will take over in Pauley Pavilion, I won’t speculate about who that may be – at least not at this time.
But after everything that has happened over the past few years, I agree that it is time for a change and for everyone to move on.
UPDATE: It was made official on Sunday, as UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero announced that Ben Howland was out as the Bruins’ basketball coach, saying…
“I looked at the entire program, where we were and especially where we’re headed. Now was the appropriate time to make a change and get a fresh start.”
I couldn’t have said it better.