Ben Howland officially introduced his new assistant - Phil Mathews - to Southern California traditional media yesterday. From all accounts he sounds like an encouraging hire. However, the news around the program is not all that great. Apparently Mathews will be the only change in Howland's staff, which needed lot more shakeup given the issues we have discussed in detail in recent weeks.
Moreover, to date Howland has not been able to generate any kind of positive momentum around his sagging basketball program. They have not been able to sign anyone this spring to boost a depleted roster down to 9 scholarship players (counting 3 incoming recruits). More importantly UCLA is off to a very rough start for the class of 2011.
Let's start with the introduction of Phil Mathews. Here is the official release:
"Phil is a welcome and outstanding addition to our coaching staff," Howland said. "He has been a successful recruiter at every level. He has great relationships and has built an outstanding network of friends not only throughout southern California but the entire country."
Mathews holds a wealth of knowledge after serving as a former college head coach at both the Division I and junior college levels. During his career, Mathews recorded nearly 500 wins as a head coach.
Mathews returned to the Division I level in 2006-07 as an assistant coach on Sadler's first staff at Nebraska. It was Mathews' first time at the NCAA's highest level since serving as head coach at San Francisco for nine years from 1995 to 2004.
"I'm excited about coming home," Mathews said. "When the opportunity presented itself to come home, it was a no-brainer for me. I have extensive contacts here in Southern California and on the West coast. Ben doesn't need help coaching, my job is to get him players to coach, so that's what I'm looking forward to doing."
"One of the things, Phil's being modest. He has great relationships. He's been in coaching for 20 years; it's really big for us to have someone with those ties to the community. Those relationships, those contacts, having that network. He's going to help in so many ways.
"Phil actually has a son who's a pretty good player. He's been out able to watch his sons play at those AAU events and we can't go to that as coaches. That's been good - he's been able to see his son play against some other good players. The rule for the coaches to not be able to go out during April during AAU events has been a poorly thought-out rule. It really hurts a lot of D-1 programs, and the players in recruiting - they're not allowed to get that exposure."
That seems encouraging. It was also interesting for Howland to note that he wasn't done with recruiting - this season - yet as he noted adding more players was "in the works." Still the news coming out of the UCLA hoops world hasn't been very encouraging at all.
To recap Bruins have missed on all of their major recruiting targets this Fall. That wasn't surprising (to those who were following the recruiting of Ray McCallum and Trey Ziegler closely) but what was not comforting was to see Howland and his staff still put on a full court press after
Fool's Gold Ray McCallum.
Now it is unclear what kind of contingency plans Howland has drawn up for this spring. Deonte Burton is off to Nevada. That happened after his aunt publicly berated Howland/UCLA on various message boards and his staff for not showing him enough attention. She later apologized and edited her postings. Nevada point guard John Loyd doesn't even have a UCLA offer on the table while he is now being pursued by programs such as Michigan State and Florida.
Reports are out that Howland is going after Matt Carlino, a 6-2, 165 SG/PG from class of 2011 who had originally committed to Indiana. Howland might be trying to recruit him to enroll a year early but it is not clear whether that is going to work out or if he is someone who can contribute next season (looking at his profile gives me nightmares of Terry Crispin). There is also French forward Remi Barry, but his situation is kind of unclear as well. So no one really knows exactly what the heck is going on with recruiting.
Meanwhile, recruiting for class of 2011 is off to a rough start. Angel Chol, the 4 star center (Scout.com's number 32 prospect) from San Diego eliminated UCLA from his list less than a week ago (Bruins didn't even make his top-5). Gary Bell, the 4 star SG from Kent, Washington just announced for Gonzaga (over UCLA and few other schools). Bell was supposed to be a major target for the Bruins. This is not good.
While the recruiting momentum seems to be fizzling (no one has any idea what is "in the works" for Bruins) Howland indicated that he is not shaking up the staff any more. We sure hope Mathews can provide an immediate boost to Howland's program, which now has been misfiring for months both on and off the court.
"(Chace) kind of had the same thing (at UCLA) before I did - we weren't playing, it was real tough not getting an opportunity. A lot of things were predetermined when we got there and it just didn't work out," Moser said. "It wasn't all a bad experience. I met a lot of good people. It's a good school, but in the end it just didn't work out."
"Predetermined" sure is an interesting word choice and I will save any extended comment on a certain "shooting" forward from this past season. Moser's comment about the upcoming year (which he will have to sit out due to transfer rule) is even more curious:
"It's always tough not to be able to play, but I'll have a chance to put on some more weight, get bigger and stronger, tighten up my skills and just become a better player," Moser said of the year that lies ahead.
Wonder why it would have been difficult for Howland or someone from his staff to tell the kid he could have done the exact same thing in Westwood, and be ready to contribute as an upperclassman either in his junior or senior season. Something is not right with this picture and it doesn't make anyone look all that great.
So to sum it up UCLA has a new assistant who seems to have a very encouraging recruiting background. That is the only piece of good news we have received in weeks and it doesn't seem to be all that much given there is no other staff shakeup in store and no momentum on the recruiting trail. Howland and his staff have a long way to go fix the current mess around our basketball program. Despite some "activity" this off-season, right now Howland's program seems to be stuck in neutral. Not encouraging at all.
Guess the good news (for season ticket holders/Den members-students) is (if the current situation remains intact with no discernible changes in Howland's program) there will be shorter lines at concession stands and restrooms next season at Pauley.