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Ben Howland vs. Tim Floyd: A Tale of Two Coaches

AndySenior Analyst IMay 14, 2008

I wrote this for the Open Mic in the Bleacher Report. Am I right or am I right?

My blog, guttylittlebruins.com, is all about objectivity. We know when our own fans are being jackasses, we know when our rival just got screwed over a blown call, and we would know when Kirk Herbstreit is not being a complete tool, though we’re still waiting to see that one.

Anyways, what I’m about to say might sound completely biased. I am about to completely rip Tim Floyd and the USC program and exalt UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland. If you don’t like it, make yourself useful and monitor whether Kirk Herbstreit has stopped being a tool while I write the rest of this piece.

To see ESPN go after O.J. Mayo is kinda sad. The dude doesn’t exactly come from a privileged background. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that only an idiot wouldn’t grab that kind of cash when it’s right in front of him. Yet, this isn’t about O.J. Mayo. This is about Tim Floyd.

Floyd is going to pull the “NO WAY! O.J. WAS TAKING MONEY? I HAD NO FRIGGIN’ CLUE!” card and USC might get away with it. Regardless, Tim Floyd knew exactly what he was dealing with from the moment a “representative” of O.J. Mayo spoke with Tim Floyd during Mayo’s recruitment. When Floyd asked for Mayo’s number, the “representative” said O.J. doesn’t give out his number…apparently even to his prospective future coaches.

“O. J. wanted me to come here today,” the man told Floyd. “He wanted me to figure out who you are.”

Floyd was desperate enough to play along. His starting point guard, Ryan Francis, had been murdered two months earlier. The backup, Gabe Pruitt, was in academic trouble. The third-stringer, a walk-on, was leaving college.

“Why aren’t you at Arizona or Connecticut?” Floyd recalled asking.

The man explained that Mayo wanted to market himself before going to the NBA, and that Los Angeles would give him the best possible platform.

“Then why aren’t you at UCLA?” Floyd asked.

The man shook his head. UCLA had already won 11 national championships. It had already produced many NBA stars. Mayo wanted to be a pioneer for a new era.

“Let me call him,” Floyd said.

The man shook his head again. “O. J. doesn’t give out his cell,” he said. “He’ll call you.”

That “representative” was Ronald Guillory, the center of the firestorm himself. Floyd knew exactly what he was getting into. If you play with matches, Tim, you get burned. That little excerpt should have been warning enough.

Now some of you are saying, “Wait…you are telling me Ben Howland wouldn’t talk to O.J. Mayo, the No. 1 recruit in the country by many recruiting services, in a similar situation?”

That’s exactly what I am telling you. If a guy came into Ben Howland’s office and said “I’m O.J.’s representative, and he wants me to feel you out,” Howland would personally kick his ass out the door.

You see, Ben Howland doesn’t do the play with fire thing. The top recruit in the class of 2009, Renardo Sidney, has made it pretty unequivocal that he wants to go to UCLA. And UCLA has not offered him.

Why? Because there are questions about his attitude, personality, and me-first demeanor…the same type of traits that would influence players to take cash in the first place.

There was some talk from inside Morgan Center (not confirmed) that highly regarded recruit Luke Babbitt was getting a little too close to Ohio State boosters. After he reneged on his commitment to OSU, Howland would not take him, not caring if he was, in fact, a five-star recruit.

Howland doesn’t play with matches. He believes in the sanctity of the UCLA program. Floyd doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the “sanctity” of USC’s program, going so far as offering a scholarship to Lil’ Romeo. Talk to any recruiting expert and they’ll tell you that he is simply not Division I material. Period.

Way to take away a scholarship from a player that actually DOES deserve to play in the PAC-10, Tim. Don’t be surprised when that Romeo kid does something shady.

And don’t be surprised if Howland would personally kick his ass out the door, too.

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