Tonight Ben Howland goes for a special victory. But he will be doing so at the Sports Arena and with other problems that make his job more difficult. For example. how clueless is UCLA under Chianti Dan, check out the picture on the UCLA Happenings Sports Page. As of midnight it was still Reeves Nelson. Can you at least promote current players Dan? I know that much has been written about Reeves but I will add a few things here.
1. The effort at the Penn game was better and more consistent throughout. Even Smith, who has been accused of fouling on purpose to get off the floor, seemed more energized in the second half.
2. Winning. Not Charlie Sheen but winning generally really cures a lot of ills. I think Reeves immaturity would have been lessened on a winning team. It was why he was a problem the end of his Freshman year but good his Sophomore year. I am not surprised by what happened as I figured this was coming if we did not win and I wrote:
I think Reeves head is okay if we are winning. Not good, mind you, but tolerable. If we keep losing . . .
If we keep winning, even these games we should win like tonight against Eastern Washington, it helps keep players happy. It is easier to take riding the pine and putting out that extra effort on defense if you are playing for a winning team.
3. Reeves mother and father agreed with Reeves dismal. His mother stated:
"Reeves behaved poorly," Sheila Nelson said later in the day during a telephone conversation.". . .
Sheila Nelson said she had no issues with how Howland treated her son - except she wished the coach had been harder on him sooner.
4. It seems most agree Howland did the right thing in dismissing Reeves:
Ben Howland finally got it right. Would you trade jobs with this guy? Any other season, that answer is an unequivocal yes. In 2011-12, with the losses piling up and the Reeves Nelson-turmoil threatening to undermine an entire season, Howland's job is hardly an enviable one. In the end, the coach made the right call in dismissing Nelson from the team. His squad may suffer for it. Nelson was this team's most productive player last season, his toughness and competitive fire would have been an identity-builder for UCLA, the way it was when Nelson became a fan favorite early in his career. But it had to be done. These kinds of calls aren't easy. They aren't simple. Howland no doubt wanted to help Nelson. He also didn't want to weaken his already-struggling team. (In other words, he doesn't want to, you know, lose.) But in the end, after a few too many weeks of deliberation and forgiveness, Howland made the right decision. He deserves credit for that much at least.
More on Howland after the jump.
Howland is also about to become the second most winning-est a coach in UCLA history. If he beats Eastern Washington tonight he will pass Jim Harrick.
UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is approaching 200 career victories at UCLA and currently sits at 192-87 (.688) at UCLA in his ninth season at the helm of the Bruins. Additionally, with his next victory, Howland will pass Jim Harrick for second place on the all-time UCLA career victories list. He is currently tied with Harrick, who posted a 192-62 record in his eight seasons (1988-89 to 1995-96) as the Bruins' mentor. Coach John R. Wooden is the all-time leader at 620-147 (.808) in his 27 seasons (1948-49 to 1974-75).
Ironically he may do so in a very un-CBH way by playing zone:
He added: "I think a zone is going to benefit us, especially when we have to play big or change things up."
Howland has implemented a zone defense in past seasons but usually not for long. He seems more committed to it this season.
"We have to get better at it, because we're going to have it during the course of the year," Howland said.
The great defensive coach rises to number 2 in UCLA history by playing a zone?
Some other news and notes.
UCLA guard Tyler Lamb had fluid drained from his hip Tuesday, but is expected to play Wednesday when the Bruins face Eastern Washington at the Sports Arena, coach Ben Howland said.
Lamb, a starter in all eight games this season, has been feeling pain in his hip since before the Maui Invitational nearly three weeks ago. He had an MRI Monday and did not practice Monday or Tuesday and the MRI showed bursitis.
"There is nothing that's serious there other than very painful bursitis," Howland said.
Of course while not an excuse for the season, UCLA Basketball has had more than its fair share of bad luck. No one more so than the player many thought might be the starting three, De'End Parker:
* On top of his knee injury, De'End Parker has food poisoning.
"This kid can't catch a break. His knee, the concussion put him out a couple weeks and the last few days, he's been violently throwing up. But his knee is still the main issue."
De'End will be out again against Eastern Washington tonight.
I wish the picture was different but it is what it is.