It was not that Ben Howland was not a good coach or did not win a lot of games. What Ben Howland is guilty of is terrible losses and not just on the court. UCLA would lose games sometimes that they have no business to losing. Losses to Cal Poly and Washington State during the season with the top 3 of 2012 recruiting class that Howland brought have too much talent to put up dog losses like those. Whether it was lack of focus or selfish play by freshman swing man Shabazz Muhammad, who would just go into “Kobe mode” and jack up ill advice shots and play hero ball. Howland seem to be fearful to take out Muhammad when he would go rogue.
It’s funny that Howland has been known for his unrelenting discipline, so much so that 4 star recruits have left the program every year over the last 4 years, but somehow Shabazz Muhammad didn’t really ever feel the wrath of Howland’s dog house. In fact Ben Howland probably started Muhammad earlier than he should have when Muhammad came back from suspension by the NCAA for improper benefits. At the time Jordan Adams was playing so well. Adams was averaging over 20 points a game when Muhammad came back. By his 2nd game back, Muhammad was a permanent fixture in the starting lineup. I understand that aspect somewhat but to really never give Muhammad any type “discipline rest” when obvious it was warranted, was part of UCLA issue this year. The offense ran better when it was just find the open man.
These are some of the issues that UCLA will try to weed out when the new regime comes in. A coach that create a style that will excite the fan base and alumni, that also catches the attention of the top recruits. UCLA needs a program builder that understands he is in a robust talent area while also attracting top flight recruits from across the nation. UCLA wants and envisions a young Roy Williams or Krzyzewski . I know it is shooting for the stars but UCLA believes they the type of program that can and should be modeled and evolved to.
To think UCLA can get anywhere close to the “glory days” is just fantasy but to get to a point where sweet 16’s are common place, with a final four visit every couple of years, and a championship game spot every 4 or 5 years, and a title every 6 years. This is what UCLA can look for. Here might be the one thing UCLA fans and alumni do not want to hear. To get to this point it may take a couple of years. To think a coach can come in and create relationships with top high schools throughout California and bring in a top 10 recruiting class annually. Programs do take a little time. If you want the right coach, the guy who will make UCLA his home like Billy Donovan has done at Florida or Krzyzewski at Duke.
The leading candidates would be those types of coaches. Brad Stevens of Butler has done wonders with limited talent and budget compared to the powers of college basketball. Stevens like Mark Few of Gonzaga has been hesitant to leave Butler University. Money will not be the overriding factor in his decision. Brad Stevens will have to get assurances from the Chancellor and athletic department that he will have time to build his style of program. I believe Brad Stevens if he would leave Butler would be at UCLA for 15-20 years if not longer.
Shaka Smart of VCU has a style that would energize the fan base and attract big time recruits to his program if it was a nationally ranked school in a power conference. Smart’s “havoc” defense allows VCU to get up and down the court at a fast paced speed that definitely would put butts in the seats at Pauley. Just think of the athletes it will take to run this style of play and the caliber of recruit Smart could get if Shaka Smart walked into a recruit’s family home and stated he was the coach of UCLA.
Jay Wright of Villanova, a very good coach but considered an east coast type of guy. The other question is would Wright leave Villanova now with the new conference alignment coming up next year. The competition for Wright’s Villanova team on a consistent basis would be Georgetown.
Gary Marshall of Wichita State, Marshall’s team has made it to the sweet 16 and Marshall has been an up and coming coach but because he is still alive in the tournament as well as does his name brings that level of excitement.
A dark horse candidate that would love an opportunity and would have an appeal to the University as well as incoming recruits, ex NBA head coach Flip Saunders, he is probably done with the meat grinder that is the NBA but definitely has a lot of knowledge of the game. The appeal of recruits would be his experience in the NBA, where these kids want to be and his offensive style would allow the natural abilities of players to come out. Saunders, who still has name recognition because of coaching the Washington Wizards as recently as 2011-2012 season, and then became an analyst for ESPN.
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