This was posted on Bruinzone, and I thought I'd forward it to all the BN folks, as it's an excellent insight into Coach Howland.
What stands out to me is Ben Howland's candor. He really is excellent with the media and with other outlets. It bothers me that, in addition to being a control freak, other slanderous attacks against him include him being mean/etc. I cannot remember a coach ever being a "nice" guy. That's what assistant coaches are for. The point remains that Howland obviously cares about his players, past and present.
Moving on to building a team, he mentions support of the Administration, including the ability to hire additional coaches that UCLA had never had before.
Whom you work for is particularly critical, said the coach, who said he was “very blessed” to have Athletic Director Dan Guerrero as a boss. When Howland arrived at UCLA in 2003, he received Guerrero’s blessing to hire an academic counselor for both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, a video coordinator and a strength/conditioning coach, none of which UCLA previously had.
As mentioned many times, this sort of support should have been there from day one, but the fact that Ben was allowed to do that is crucial. Game-tape review became one of the major reasons our team was so well prepared heading into the three final fours. I remember us even having tape on Belmont! It's very useful and for a detail-oriented coach like Ben, it's invaluable.
He also mentions how difficult it is to recruit in this climate.
Third — to no one’s great surprise — Howland mentioned that talent is extremely important. He drew laughs when he said that he is a much better coach when he has good talent. “At our level, recruiting is everything,” he said. “The greatest thing about the job when Coach Wooden was here was that players stayed for four years. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton were here for four years. That would never happen today. It’s just impossible.” To compensate, Howland said he finds himself recruiting more and more players in case some of them decide to leave early. Making the task even more difficult is finding players who are coachable, willing to work hard, and able to handle the academic rigors of UCLA.
I think too many UCLA fans regarding basketball recruiting like football recruiting, saying we need to lock up every talent possible at every position to be competitive. This is just no the case. One recruit can have a major impact on a program, as I believe Josh Smith is doing right now. He's allowing us to move Reeves to his natural 4 position, and allowing Brendan Lane to come off the bench instead of playing the four, or having an inexperienced Stover start at center, which might be tough. Smith is a program-changer, though not on the level that KLove, RW, DC, and AA were.
Finally, and most glaring to me, he mentions work ethic and competition. This is something I wish our football coaches appreciated more.
To improve the mental and physical toughness of their players, Howland and his staff make practices competitive. Every drill has a competition assigned to it, and there is always a winner and a loser. The coaches keep stats so that if a player wonders why he’s not playing more, they have something to back up their decision. “Like the day before yesterday, our three leading rebounders in practice were Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee. Those happen to be our three best players. There’s a direct correlation, and I can point to it,” Howland said. “There’s always an accountability every day, in everything that you’re doing.”
This sort of thing is crucial to driving people to not only personal but competitive success. If you make practices the hardest competition that players will face, then a game will pale in comparison. This motivates athletes who want to be the best, want to play in the NBA. If they can't start, how will they get there? This is why BH is our coach. He is all about details and all about proving yourself. I wish he had used this more on Dragovic. However, this kind of approach is very telling as to where our success stems from.