By Steve Finley
Special to the Observer 

Columnist Points Out Howland's Flaws


Columnist Points Out Howland’s Flaws

When it comes to UCLA basketball, winning games, winning championships and going deep into the NCAA tournament are three different situations.

Ben Howland was fired a few weeks after winning the Pac-12 championship. At a lot of schools he would have gotten a contract extension. Not at UCLA.

At UCLA no coach will ever live up to John Wooden who won 10 nationals championships. The coach who followed Wooden, the late Gene Bartow, went 52-7 in two years but quit under the pressure of fans and alumni who wanted another national championship.

At UCLA you have to be as close to perfect as possible. You have to recruit the right players, coach them the right way so they will at least stay around long enough to reach their full college potential.

Too many college players get the wrong advice and leave college early which leaves them stuck in the D-League or overseas. A lot of the players need the money but the coaching staff plays a big part convincing players to stay.

A good example of this was the early departure of Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt a few years ago. Neither player was ready to go to NBA but because of the dysfunctional nature of the UCLA team at the time both players decided to leave.

This year 6-9 freshmen guard Kyle Anderson is thinking about turning pro. He’s not ready and a good coaching staff would keep him in college at least one more year.

Howland was a very good coach who sent a lot of players to the NBA but most of those players will tell you they did not have fun playing under his controlling, calling a time out for no reason system. If you can’t have fun in college as a student-athlete then that’s a problem. Just ask former Bruin Bill Walton, who was highly critical of Howland on telecasts this season.

Another problem Howland had is recruiting. Wooden use to start at home. If the players did not have the grades he would send them to Community College. Arron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Jordan Farmar were all local players. The best combination of guards in the Pac-12 this season was Alan Crabbe and Justin Cobbs from the University of California. Both players are from Los Angeles and they had the grades to get into UCLA.

When they enroll at UCLA it’s the job of the coach and his staff to get the players in shape and coach them to be better players. Josh Smith and Tony Parker are good examples of what went wrong under Howland. Smith was never really in shape during his three years at UCLA and each year the situation got worse. This season Smith transferred to Georgetown.

Parker, a freshman this season, was part of the second best recruiting class in the nation but received little playing time in Howland’s system. Injuries were part of the reason but when he did play he looked like a player who had a lot of potential who needed more playing time to get better. The Bruins needed help this season in the rebounding department and Parker was 6-9 and 275 pounds. In high school he led his team to four consecutive state titles and he was also played in the 2012 McDonald’s All-American game.

Howland had a record of 233-107 in his 10 years at UCLA that included three straight Final Fours. His Final Four appearances were in the early part of his coaching career at UCLA. The last five years has been marred with transfers, empty seats at Pauley Pavilion, questionable recruiting and bad media coverage.

New coach Steve Alford must be able correct the problems Howland had, win basketball games in an entertaining manner and have his teams go deep into the NCAA Tournament. In other words he needs to be almost perfect like the Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden.


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