Dark Times in Westwood: Can we say that the seat is warm?


UCLA hasn’t had a losing season (Below .500) since 1948, Pre-Golden Era, of course with the exception of the last Steve Lavin year. Ranking this team up against the 90-some years of UCLA Basketball would be extremely easy, right around 90. Ranking this coach, on the other hand, would be hard. There has been 12 coaches for the most prestigious basketball organization in the world, but ranking the current head coach is somewhat of a hard task.

I’ll give you the “statistical rundown”:

  1. John Wooden (620-147), 10 National Championships, 12 Final Four Appearances (316-67 in Conference)
  2. Jim Harrick (192-62), 1 National Championship, 1 Final Four Appearance, (108-36 in conference)
  3. Ben Howland (145-49), 3 Final Four Appearances, (77-32 in conference)
  4. Gene Bartow (52-9), 1 Final Four Appearance, (24-4 in conference)
  5. Larry Brown (42-17, 1 Final Four Appearance, (25-11 in conference)
  6. Gary Cunningham (80-8), (29-3 in conference)
  7. Larry Farmer (61-23), (39-15 in conference)
  8. Steve Lavin (145-78), (81-48 in conference)
  9. Walt Hazzard (77-47), (47-25 in conference)
  10. Caddy Works (173-159), (82-108 in conference)
  11. Wilbur Johns (93-120), (34-56 in conference)
  12. Fred Cozens (21-4), (9-0 in conference)* only played 25 games…

By this logic, you need to notice that this is purely on the formula of National Championships>Final Four>Overall Record, not anything like personal preference, nothing like that.

As you can see, in the 91 years of Bruin Basketball, this will basically be the first time that any coach who is remotely as successful as Ben Howland will be persecuted as a disgrace of a program.

Ben Howland has performed tasks that only three other coaches have done at UCLA, salvaged a program that was on the verge of being a bottom-feeder program, sent out seven first round picks in his time here, and changed the identity of defensive basketball.

This year, on the other hand, Howland basically was in the room when the sh- confetti hit the fan. The reason? The year of “13-9” and of Florida’s All-Star Donovans. 2006 was the worst class in the history of the “text” for UCLA. Check out that year’s class and some of the names on that list, both for players and for schools.

Some highlights after the jump:

Via Rivals

"North Carolina: eadlining is Brandan Wright, the nation’s No. 5 player. Adding to the arsenal is the best incoming backcourt in the nation, which features Wayne Ellington, the No. 9 player in the country, and Oak Hill point guard Tywon Lawson. All three players will make an instant impact and could use the college game as a quick springboard to the NBA.Ohio State: It’s almost sacrilege to list the Buckeyes second with their stellar class this year. How many guys like Greg Oden, the best big man in the high school ranks since Shaquille O’Neal, come around? Not a lot. And now with the new NBA age limit, Oden will fine tune his pro-ready game in Columbus for at least a year. Coming along with him is his long time teammate and close friend Mike Conley, the No. 3 ranked point guard in the country, with him.Texas: The Longhorns have become a national recruiting force during the last five years on the basketball front and reinforced that when Kevin Durant, the second ranked player in the country, picked the Big 12 school over North Carolina and Connecticut.Stanford: 9. Stanford – The Cardinal isn’t bringing in the big class like so many other schools but they are bringing in big time talent. Brook Lopez, the fourth best player in the country, is thought to be a future NBA forward by many observers. His twin brother Robin Lopez isn’t too shabby either at No. 17 overall in the country. 6-foot-9 Texas forward Will Paul was a guard before he hit a huge growth spurt.Duke: After hitting it big in 2005, Coach K and company are adding key components to their stellar freshmen class. Gerald Henderson is the slasher that the team is missing and should be a major player for the Blue Devils next year. New Jersey native Brian Zoubek is a rarity in college hoops – a skilled 7-footer. Jon Scheyer, a four-star guard from suburban Chicago, is a versatile winner that will shine in Duke’s system.Arizona: Lute Olson went hard after San Diego wing forwardChase Budinger and his hard work paid off when the No. 10 overall prospect picked the Wildcats over several other Pac-10 schools. He’s one of the highest ranked players to ever commit to Arizona. He’s joined by 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Hill and Houston point guard Nic Wise, who will finally sign with the school three years after he committed."

First, where was UCLA in that article? Second, how many current/future NBA stars are there on that list? Guess what, the most talented team in the PAC 10 is Cal. They were all from this (or 2005 with a redshirt) class.

In the 2006-07 year, UCLA struck gold for the second time in a row and got back to the Final Four for the second time in a row. Let’s look at the players the were/should have been here right now: (listed in order of playing time this year)

  • Michael Roll
  • Nikola Dragovic
  • James Keefe
  • Mustafa Abdul-Hamid
  • Russell Westbrook (Went pro after his sophomore season)

… How did we not see this coming! This was one of the most terrible, over-speculated, and just pathetic recruiting classes, with the exception of Westbrook. We all knew that he was going pro when he developed out, he was bound to do that.

How could this happen though? Not enough scholarships, or just overzealous speculation for the next class? Both really; here are the players that are/should be here now;

  • Michael Roll
  • Nikola Dragovic
  • James Keefe
  • Mustafa Abdul-Hamid
  • Chase Stanback (Transfered)
  • Kevin Love (Went pro)
  • Russell Westbrook (Went pro)

As you can see, you can fill out a pretty good starting lineup from these guys? Did Howland think that he absolutely needed to keep Love and Westbrook? No, he had faith in picking up a decent center to anchor the team, and keeping Roll up to speed. His one mistake? Influencing Stanback to transfer. This mistake is the most apparent reason for any woes today, but he did have a chance at making things up next year: (Red means scrub walk-on player)

  • Michael Roll
  • Malcolm Lee
  • Nikola Dragovic
  • Jerime Anderson
  • James Keefe
  • J’mison Morgan
  • Mustafa Abdul-Hamid
  • Spencer Soo
  • Tyler Trapani
  • Blake Arnet
  • Matt DeMarcus
  • Kevin Schmidt
  • Jrue Holiday (Went Pro)
  • Drew Gordon (Transfered mid-Sophomore year)

You try arranging a starting lineup out of returners! Look at that! They all ended up being busts! This all traces back to 2006, that dismal year. Imagine this, and this is farfetched:

  • Jrue Holiday (PG)
  • Michael Roll (SG)
  • Chase Stanback (SF)
  • Reeves Nelson (PF/C)
  • Drew Gordon (PF/C)

That’s a damn good lineup if you ask me. And it didn’t ask for much. Did Howland hit the PERFECT STORM? Not really, but he did have some bad breaks. That terrible 2006 recruiting class was something that ending up nipping UCLA in the long run, and the bust from last year will hurt us again in four years if the “Fab Four Three” don’t hurry up and develop.

Am I saying that Howland is going to get pressured? Yep, absolutely, a losing season is not ever acceptable at a program that is four (actually two thanks to John Calipari) years removed from a National Championship appearance. But do I think he will drive this program back into the ground? No way.

UCLA is in the darkest part of its illustrious existence, but hopefully Harvey Dent was right saying that it is darkest before the dawn.