After nearly a decade at the helm of the most storied college basketball program in the country, it's time for Ben Howland and UCLA to part ways.
In reality, this is a move that athletic director Dan Guerrero should have made long ago, but he can no longer sit idly by and wait for his embattled head coach to turn things around.
Rather than sit here and relive the greatest hits and misses of Howland's UCLA career, we can sum the previous nine years up in a tidy little statement: UCLA is no longer viewed as one of the great programs in the nation.
There's still awe involved with the program, but it's not the reverential kind. Now, people react to UCLA's men's basketball team much in the same way they would react to being presented with bad news: "Aw man, what happened?"
Despite landing the nation's top-ranked recruiting class in 2012, this is all true.
Three members of that class—Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad—are all logging big minutes, and any reasonable person had to expect that it would take the freshmen a little while to adjust to the college game and gel as a team.
Following UCLA's recent comeback victory over a mediocre Texas team, Howland was quick to point to that fact and lean on it like someone with a broken leg leans on a crutch (via ESPN):
They're still learning. It's all new to them. Everybody is just out to get these guys because they're highly touted. Give them some time.
I totally understand a coach coming to the defense of his players; hell, I applaud it. Part of a college coach's responsibility is to protect his players from outside elements.
But while other people may not view UCLA as a big-time program any longer, its supporters do.
Fair or not, there are expectations that come with playing ball at Pauley Pavilion, and right now, those expectations are not being met.
They haven't been met for a long time.
Howland's supporters (believe it or not, some do exist) will point to the fact that Howland once led UCLA to three consecutive Final Fours.
Memo to those folks: We are now five years removed from that.
In college basketball, five years is a lifetime—and any goodwill and benefit of the doubt that Howland had saved up from those years has surely dried up by now.
Kentucky's John Calipari can make an excuse like Howland did and get away with it, because Coach Cal is fresh off of a national championship—one that he won with three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup.
Ben Howland has run out of answers to the questions of how to fix what ails the Bruins.
It's time that the school realizes the answer to that question and stops accepting excuses in its place.
Ben Howland is what ails the Bruins, and it's time for the administration to administer the vaccine.
It's the best thing for the present—and future—of UCLA basketball.