Let me be clear that we are a long ways from that happening as I write this and it is pure speculation, but knowing Moos I’m almost certain that he is going to call Howland before the weekend is over to discuss what it would take to get him here. If that’s the case and the coach puts in a reasonable request in terms of salary, in typical Moos fashion, he will not wait for other suitors to take their shots, he’ll lock up Howland immediately.The publicity for Washington State athletics and the fact that Howland would likely be a long term solution would completely solidify the WSU brand and major programs for years to come, which is Moos’ ultimate goal.
Mar 22, 2013; Austin, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Ben Howland reacts against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second half during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Frank Erwin Center. Minnesota beat UCLA 83-63. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
Why would he be a long term solution? Howland is a good basketball coach and a good national recruiter. I would be ecstatic to welcome in a coach of his reputation and general overall abilities, as would 98% of Cougar fans. People at a major program will not see him as a “find” after the way he finished up at UCLA. Matter of fact, many people (especially within the UCLA community) are saying that he would be terrific coach at a mid-major program and they wish him the best in that endeavor. It’s a fact that 75% of the mid-major teams out there could use a Ben Howland roaming their sidelines.
But I’m not sure Washington State doesn’t give Howland an incredible opportunity to prove everybody wrong about his abilities at a top level conference, this conference in particular. A fresh start at a school like Washington State could be just what the doctor ordered to re-invigorate both coach and program. The athletes will be more available here, regardless of what people think about being able to recruit to Pullman. However I do realize you don’t need the athletes necessarily as much at mid-major programs and in the overall scheme, WSU still wouldn’t pull in the level of athlete that say UCLA or Arizona will. Still a good coach (and make no mistake Howland is a good coach, if not a great coach comparative to what Washington State has had, sans Bennett) can and will do incredibly well here.
He would take over a young roster with a few semi-heralded freshman athletes in Que Johnson and Ikenna Iroegbu coming in and a tough, somewhat athletic core group that includes Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and D.J. Shelton. Add a couple more young, big post players on or coming onto the roster (Junior Longrus, Jordan Railey, Tanner Lancona, Josh Hawkinson) and… Oh look a mini-UCLA!
Also, you have to consider the money and no mid-major can pay what Washington State would be willing to pay him (between $1 and 1.5 Million likely). On top of it all though, the pressure would be off and the expectations not nearly as insurmountable as they eventually are for every man that dons the UCLA coaching seat. In fact the expectations at Washington State are probably the second least highest in the conference, save for Oregon State.
Overall it just seems like an incredible opportunity for Washington State to put their basketball program back on the map right now. As the season unfolded, this wasn’t an opportunity very many people saw coming down the pipes, so Ken Bone didn’t have much to worry about. But quite honestly I cannot see Moos and WSU passing up at least a hard look and lengthy discussion with the best coach in the Pac-12 conference over the last decade.
I was talking to Carlos Sandoval of Bruin Blue Digest earlier on Friday over twitter about the possibility of Howland at a program like Washington State and how he thought he might fit if he were to lose over the weekend and be fired from UCLA. I was half joking because he seems out of WSU’s sphere, but we’ve seen this before (hint, Mike Leach). What he replied to me was simple and a little bit surprising, but actually eye opening in a big way that this could be a possibility.