UCLA Basketball: 10 Shocking Admissions About UCLA in Upcoming SI Article
Just as Linsanity dies down, we are awoken with the new revelations of yet another buzz-worthy topic that's sure to get some people talking. In the upcoming Sports Illustrated, UCLA seems to be the new poster child for our need for sports-related drama.
If you haven't gotten a chance to read the article, don't sweat it; it won't be on the shelves until March 5th. You can read the entire article written by George Dohrmann here.
I'm not going to rank the admissions in any order here, rather I'm going to go through them in the same order presented by the article. Ideally, this will save you time if you are in somewhat of a hurry, or don't have time to read the four-page piece.
If this is all you have time for, then just know that players were fighting, recruits were potheads, players were dropping E, Ben Howland was doing nothing and the program was faltering. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention—allegedly. Players' rants after their time somewhere is not unheard of; in fact it's expected sometimes. I'm not surprised at a story like this, but it is a little concerning that UCLA has been far less dominant than they have proven to be over the years, followed by a story of this magnitude.
George's First Premise: Howland Is a Basketball Mind, but Not a Player Manager
After listening to George Dohrmann on the Dan Patrick Show, and then again on the Jim Rome radio show, it is clear that the author of this article doesn't mean to bash Howland's basketball IQ. In fact, on the contrary.
Howland was brought to UCLA following the 2002-03 season, and led his squads to three Final Fours leading into 2009. George points out in the beginning of the article that Howland at first led the Wooden legacy, i.e. the pyramid of success, but over the fast four years, his ability to keep order in the locker room has been compromised. Players reportedly didn't want to be around Howland, and he verbally abused his assistants and weaker talents.
Howland's Knack for Obsessive Demands
Apparently Ben Howland experienced a little OCD. He allegedly had to have the film room at exactly 76 degrees, or he would verbally assault his assistants. If his water wasn't cold enough or the right size, he also would overreact. His former players called him extremely socially awkward. That's not the nicest thing to call somebody.
George also makes reference to an incident where the Bruins were going over pregame strategies in a hotel ballroom, and players were thrown out for not getting low enough on defense, even though they couldn't execute the position in their street clothes.
The Russell Westbrook Incident
Apparently there was even a time when Ben Howland was not impressed with the shot selection of Westbrook in a particular game, and instead of subbing him out, he tracked down the referee and told him that Westbrook had socks with NBA logos on them, and that he shouldn't be allowed to play.
Allegedly the referee wasn't "aware of the issue" and did nothing.
What a chump. Who does that to their own players?! I could understand if it was a teachable moment, but that's just weird.
The Tides Turn
The dynamics of the Bruins' run over the last decade changed when Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook left for the NBA.
According to George Dohrmann,
Holiday and Lee were serious and professional; they had fun off the court but never went too far. Anderson, Gordon and Morgan by contrast, took advantage of the freedom of being in college and did what many freshmen do. They partied. The trio regularly drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, sometimes before practice, according to multiple teammates.
A lot of this, in my opinion, has to do with the team being bad. You don't think the other programs are doing the same exact thing? It's L.A.—the nice part—and you are a famous athlete around town. I think in most cases, things get swept under the rug. In this case, losing made the rug get pulled up, and the dirt was exposed.
Drew Gordon: The Initiator
After leaving 2009 because of a looming suspension, Drew Gordon plays a big role in the nationally ranked New Mexico Lobos basketball team. His past now might come back to haunt him as he readies himself for the possible next step.
In several incidents, Gordon allegedly set an illegal screen on Darren Collison, prompting a fight. Players interviewed said the "Baby Bruins" were invincible off the court, or at least thought that way, and that carried over into practice. Gordon was also rumored to be a hothead who couldn't handle criticism in any regard, and drank heavily and smoked weed even before practice on a few occasions.
The Baby Bruins
Even during a Final Four berth, the Bruins had problems swirling around the locker room. After a speech to players demanding that they don't party it up on New Years, a trio of players hit an L.A. rave and popped E. I'd say that would be sticking it to the man, eh? Idiots.
The players bragged about it the next morning at an 8:00 a.m. practice after barely sleeping the night before. They were apparently still feeling the effects of the overpowering drug. It's important to mention that the three weren't all freshmen, but it's largely pondered throughout the article that their lack of discipline was the major pillar of demise.
When Howland did get tipped off after the 2008-2009 season, he fired his player manager for partying with the teammates, even though the student-player manager gave him that information in hopes of helping the situation.
Allegedly, none of the other players were disciplined. The player manager was rumored to be such a devoted Bruins worker, he would "would come in and rebound for guys at 3 a.m. if they asked him to."
Reeves Nelson: The Real Initiator
This guy basically tried to fight the team, allegedly. First he throws up arm bars in Mike Moser's face, then he fights off campus and gets a black eye, followed by many other incidents. The matter at hand is the lack of interference by Ben Howland. His reaction was one of "I've wanted to hit Nelson in the face for weeks."
Nelson was dismissed in December of 2011, and up until then was quite the roller coaster.
His other incidents include stepping on the chest of the great grandson of John Wooden, Tyler Trapani, after Nelson couldn't jam it in his face.
He used to punt basketballs in the stands and tell the student managers to go and fetch them.
He piled up Tyler Honeycutt's clothes on his bed after learning he might be a snitch, and then he urinated on them. Apparently, they are still friends? Hmmm.
He ridiculed Matt Carlino after he got a concussion for spending too much time on the sideline. Carlino then transferred to BYU and became a standout.
He was a classic bully.
In respect to him, however, he did admit to everything, and said he is tying to learn from his emotional divide. That's surprising because most of the other players mentioned in this article for doing detrimental things to the team declined to comment.
The big things with Nelson: He was rarely reprimanded throughout the infancy of his disrespect and utter stupidity.
Donnie Daniels: Coach for Gonzaga
I found this very interesting, and it plays to the lack of control Howland has over his squad.
Donnie Daniels, who was an assistant during the 2008-09 season, allegedly said that he would rather be dead than to have to coach Nelson another year.
Obviously he denies that today. He'd be stupid not to.
The Rest of the Mentioned Events
What we have gained is a sense of the disarray. Here are some other points made by George Dohrmann:
One player, upset with playing time, didn't even wear his jersey to a game. When asked to go in during garbage time, the player couldn't and wasn't disciplined.
Drew Gordon was sent packing instead of the obvious Nelson Reeves distraction. The message was that weed, fights and booze were alright, but questioning the mastermind was off limits. Gordon was cut after arguing defensive technique.
At several points, Howland seemed to lose control. Obviously, right?
UCLA was bad for a reason.
In Conclusion: 'Not the UCLA Way'
Overall, I found this article very entertaining, but not a bombshell.
Every college campus has these issues, and for UCLA to be demonized was not the basis of the article. It was in fact an article made to raise awareness for a program that has been underachieving for the last couple of years. Reports say that it is getting better, and I believe it's nothing more then a cycle of different players meshing that relates to on- and off-the-court issues.
If you want to read more, Google George Dohrmann and subscribe to his Twitter. If you'd like to read more from me, be sure to check in with me here at Bleacher Report, or at www.NFLNCAA.com