Ben Howland may be out as the head coach of the UCLA men's basketball team after another disappointing finish.
That isn't a solution, though, to the problems that the team faced during its latest NCAA tournament ouster.
Howland’s squads have now missed the tournament altogether twice and failed to advance past the second round after reaching three-consecutive Final Fours from 2006 to 2008.
Things got tough this time around and Howland’s team, led by Shabazz Muhammad, crumbled from within. Muhammad, one of Howland’s best recent recruits, is widely believed to be on the verge of declaring for the upcoming NBA draft.
He didn’t play like he cared much for winning any more games for Howland with his performances in the Pac-12 tournament and in the first half of the team’s NCAA tournament elimination by Minnesota.
Muhammad missed his first seven shots, but ended up finishing with 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
The absence of star guard Jordan Adams probably didn’t help matters, either. Adams broke a bone in his right foot during the Pac-12 tourney. Without him, the team looked stale offensively and couldn’t get in a groove.
Before his injury, nobody was talking about an early exit for the Bruins. Presumably, Howland had put together a team worthy of competing in the Big Dance.
Is it his fault or his players’ fault that the plan came apart at the seams?
Howland has found success with the Bruins. Sometimes, circumstances out of your control dictate your fate. That is especially true when dealing with something like a one-and-done tournament.
The NCAA tournament itself is a volatile endeavor. Like anything in competitive sports, one mistake, or in this case, injury, can alter and steer the course of your season.
So, the Bruins athletic department certainly has some questions it needs to ask this offseason. Whether or not to keep Howland should definitely be one of them.
Getting rid of the man who has brought so much success and talent to their program shouldn’t be the end result of the program’s deliberation, though. After evaluating everything, they should see the value he brings as a recruiter and basketball mind.
Howland, or whoever is coaching, is going to have to address some important questions this offseason, too.
Will Adams be back for his sophomore season? Who will step up and fill the void left by Muhammad when he leaves for the NBA?
These are things Howland has already been planning for. At least let him give it another shot to serve out the two remaining years of his contract and finish what he started.
If they opt to start over and buy out his contract, they may end up finding even more questions in the wake of his departure.