The UCLA Bruins were officially eliminated from the NCAA Tournament over the weekend as they lost to the Florida Gators in the round of 32. As the program looks toward the future, some changes will be made, but will one change include the head coach?
Bruins head coach Ben Howland could be on the hot seat after the loss to Florida. The Bruins played valiantly in both games but seemed to lack that killer instinct to put away the opposition. They easily could have beaten the Spartans by double digits but barely held on down the stretch. The lack of focus and ability to execute fundamentally could be attributed to coaching.
Howland’s body of work speaks volumes. Howland took over head coaching duties from Steve Lavin in 2003 and has been successful, getting an invite to the NCAA Tournament in six out of his eight years at the helm.
In three of those six years the Bruins made it to the Final Four, including one visit to the Championship Game. Howland has had some success, but in the fast paced world of college athletics, it’s all about what the team has done lately.
The Bruins finished second in the Pac-10 standings behind the Arizona Wildcats. The Bruins were embarrassed in the Pac-10 tournament as they were trounced in the quarterfinals by the seventh-seeded Oregon Ducks. After being eliminated by Florida, the Bruins have now failed to advance past the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament in three years. Although this is an ugly mark on the resume of Howland, he can’t be solely to blame.
The NBA has taken plenty of Howland’s top players. In fact, UCLA has produced more NBA draft picks (106) than any other school in the country.
If Kevin Love did not leave early to become a double-double machine for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he would be a senior on the current team. Love’s ability down low could have dramatically changed the landscape of the Bruin’s basketball program. Howland is doing the best with what he has and this could pay off as early as next year.
Junior Malcolm Lee and sophomores Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson would provide a talented core if they decide to pass on the NBA draft. Howland supports all players that declare for the draft, but he would surely love to have all three first-team All-Pac-10 conference players back in the fold.
If they all stay they would join newcomers Norman Powell, De'End Parker and David and Travis Wear, who would substantially increase the depth of the Bruins. The bench was a major weakness in the tournament as they only posted two points against the Gators.
If Howland is to be fired, the Bruins would have a difficult time finding someone just as talented to fill the void. Howland has done the best with what he has, and has recovered quicker than many programs that lose top players to the NBA.
The UCLA Bruins should stay loyal to Howland, as the coach does not deserve to be on the hot seat. The loyalty could pay off as early as next year, with the Bruins poised to be an elite team in the country.
Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.