From David Kaplan at Chicago Now (emphasis added):
DePaul is continuing their search for Jerry Wainwright's replacement and has an extensive list of candidates that they are studying. Contrary to a TV report that ran in Chicago last week, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon was never a serious candidate for the job. He is a good friend of DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto and the two keep in touch but Dixon never was offered the job and he never seriously considered it. UCLA coach Ben Howland did consider the DePaul opening but decided on Tuesday to stay in Westwood where he feels his program is poised for a rebound season after a difficult 2009-10 campaign.
Let's recap how this story got started:
- On March 11 two columnists from the Chicago Tribune - Fred Mitchell & Dave Kaplan - reported that Ben Howland was a "long shot" candidate for the DePaul job, "who could be looking to leave Westwood."
- We fanshotted the story here on March 12th. There was no effort from Ben Howland or UCLA to bat down this story even though it was discussed on BN and other Bruin boards.
- On March 24 ESPN's Pat Forde - one of the more respected reporters in at tWWL - wrote that Ben Howland "rumored to be offered a whopping, multiyear deal" at DePaul.
- Also on March 24 John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that DePaul was "offering big bucks to UCLA" and that Pitino could be a candidate for UCLA.
- Same day - On March 24 - Tracy Pierson from Bruin Report Online picked up on the story, which followed a strong denial from Ben Howland via multiple outlets.
- Notably on March 24 Frank Burlison, one of the most respected college hoops observers in West Coast picked up on the story confirming that Ben Howland's "representative was contacted by DePaul officials to gauge his interest" but Howland "never talked to anyone from DePaul."
Piecing together all the reports/posts from last two weeks I do believe Howland via his reps had more than casual chatter with DePaul. The fact that stands out to me is that this story was first reported on March 11 and it festered around for two weeks. If Howland never had any kind of interest in the DePaul job, he should have immediately shot down that story and quashed it at that point. He didn't. More after the flip.
Now there is nothing wrong with Howland considering a job like DePaul. It is actually a very interesting opportunity in one of the best cities in the world with a direct pipeline to one of the best recruiting hotbed in America. Moreover, going over to DePaul potentially makes sense for a coach like Ben Howland, who loves rugged, hard-nosed defensive players (although that hasn't been the case last two seasons in well chronicled player personnel decisions here on BN) and he would get another fresh start. So it is more than plausible despite his strong public denials that Howland did consider that job. If there is any kind of misinformation or falsehood in the reports coming out of Chicago, Howland should call those guys out publicly.
So from what I have read and heard to date, I do believe this episode was more than just hearing out DePaul's overtures. If it was just hearing out DePaul's overtures, the rumor would have been quashed lot earlier by Howland either via him or through UCLA.
Anyway, Howland to DePaul didn't happen. Howland is still here. Now do I maintain any kind of negative feeling towards Howland for considering another job? Not really. I think he is a very good basketball coach who naturally generates interest. However, I do think there are genuine questions now in terms of how Howland is going to get our program back on track.
I do believe though this story upgrades the pressure on Howland. Now more than ever he will have to deliver not just a great comeback season in 2010-11 but leave no doubt that Bruins are back in recruiting scene, getting back the mojo we had earlier in Howland's tenure. Guess we will see how this works out because spring signing day is coming up in less than 4 weeks (starts on April 14th). We are all rooting for him to get it done.