In today’s sports section we are running a column by respected local writer Steve Finley, who points out many of Ben Howland’s faults.
I believe in presenting all sides of an issue even though I think Howland deserved a contract extension instead of being fired at UCLA.
Today we know Steve Alford is the new Bruin basketball coach and only time will tell if he’s an improvement.
Alford is an Indiana legend because of his Sterling playing career with the Hoosiers.
But he is not a giant in his profession like Coach K at Duke. Rick Pitino at Louisville, Jim Boeheim at Syracuse or a few others.
If UCLA was tired of Howland I would heve felt better about his demise if Athletic Director Dan Guerrero had secured a commitment from one of college basketball’s elite coaches, whose presence would have assured the Bruins of bringing in elite players.
Alford may be able to do that but maybe not.
Alford coached with some success at Iowa, then went to New Mexico and did an outstanding job.
The folks in New Mexico were nervous in recent years about the possibility Alford would be lured back to the Big Ten Conference. But he stayed and assembled a team this season with Final Four possibilities.
New Mexico won the Mountain West Conference for the second straight year and was awarded a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Then Alford signed a new 10-year contract.
But New Mexico was jolted out of the NCAA Tournament by Harvard, and my friends in New Mexico told me there was a lot of unrest about that. Perhaps New Mexico made a mistake by announcing Alford’s new contract before the tournament began.
The issue here is loyalty. New Mexico made a major commitment to Alford by offering 10 years. They wanted him to make a similar commitment, but instead he abruptly bolted for UCLA.
I wonder if he’s up to date. He says he wouldn’t have left for any other school. Doesn’t he realize UCLA isn’t the glamorous destination for players like it was when John Wooden was establishing college basketball’s greatest dynasty? Doesn’t he know the Bruins were eliminated from this season’s NCAA Tournament in the first round, just as New Mexico was?
Guerreo, bothered by UCLA’s sagging attendance, said the new coach would have to play up-tempo, a style fans prefer. Howland favored a defense-minded style previously but his last Bruin team did play up-tempo.
Recognizing Howland’s success over the years, Orange County Register award-winning columnist Mark Whicker suggests USC should hire Howland, The Trojans are looking for a coach and could do a lot worse.