In a not so glorious blaze of black smoke last night, the UCLA Bruins basketball team imploded on Ben Howland and it is over for him at UCLA. Fair or not, the Bruins have a proud tradition of winning that has no place for a first round NCAA Tournament ousting by a #11 seeded Minnesota team. Heck, it has no place for a five season stretch that included only 3 invitations to the Big Dance and never yielded better than a #6 seed in that time.
The resume looks really good overall, but not for the tradition of Westwood and especially not recently. At UCLA Howland took his teams to 3 Final Four’s, but he never won a championship and his last Final Four was in 2008, when they were a #1 seed and lost to runner-up Memphis in the semi-final. Since then the Bruins haven’t even sniffed the Sweet 16. Basically what that means is that in the first 5 years of his UCLA career he posted three Final Four appearances, but in the second 5 year period, he’s posted exactly zero trips to the 2nd weekend of the tourney. When you’re brought in to compete for championships, that won’t get it done.
The other significant thing about 2008? Tony Bennett and the Cougs knocked off the Bruins in Westwood for only the second time in 50 some-odd tries. While they lost at home to UCLA by two and then lost to the Bruins again in the Pac-10 quarterfinals, WSU earned a 4 seed in the Dance and cruised into the Sweet 16 before losing to North Carolina. Of course Bennett took off for Virginia after that season, and there’s no correlation between Howland and the WSU program there, except that WSU beat UCLA the last time either program was really good and then the next time WSU beat them was this season when both programs’ coaches could well be fired.
For WSU head basketball coach Ken Bone, while he may not have been particularly worried after the season ended a week ago (maybe because he knows the financial status of the University), I would imagine he’s sweating a little bit now. Suddenly the door just came wide open for one of the most interesting and dynamic coaching duos in the country with Leach as football coach and Howland as basketball coach.
Continue this fascinating, in depth idea of Ben Howland as WSU’s next basketball coach on the next page