Tourney Results: Comparing UCLA to Elite Programs

I've been inspired by gbruin's excellent post Reason and Consistency. I believe it is a discussion that was far too important to fall to the side. While we are all pretty excited by the good news coming out of the Football program; it seems many have forgotten just how inept our Athletic Department really is, or just how apathetic our school administration is.

gbruin's post (and KSBruin's which preceded and inspired it) have examined 'if Ben Howland deserved to stay on as coach of UCLA Men's Basketball. It is a worthy discussion and worth thinking about.

I want to take a look further up the totem pole and look at those responsible for hiring our coaches, and more importantly, setting the standard our coaches must strive for. Let me rephrase that. Coach Wooden set the standard when he won 10 National Championship between 1963 and 1975. Just to re-iterate, no one is expecting us to win back to back to back National Championships. We do have a certain standard to maintain however, and I believe that includes winning the occasional Championship that necessarily comes with maintaining a high standard of competition. Do the leaders of our university feel the need to maintain that high standard of competition?

The results of my study would suggest, No. Numbers and charts after the jump.

I began my analysis by charting the tournament results since 1984-85 for the following Traditional Basketball Powers: Duke, UNC, UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, UConn, and Indiana. I chose the 84-85 season since it was the year the tournament expanded to 64 teams. I considered analyzing results dating back to the end of Coach's run, but the thought of assigning values to a tournament field of 16 or 32 teams that would equate to today's tournament simply made my head hurt.

Many will argue if the last two deserve to be in there, but gbruin mentioned UConn, so I included them. Indiana, of course is one of the Old School basketball powers, so I felt justified including them. For the purpose of my analysis, I assigned a numerical value for Tournament results in any given year. They are as follows:


(I assigned a value of 1 for an NIT appearance, no matter how far in the NIT a team got. I reasoned that postseason play should have some value meanwhile recognizing that an NIT championship is not as highly regarded as actually playing in the tournament.)

I checked team by team season by season results on Wikipedia and got the following results.


You can see that in 1995 we won the National Championship, while North Carolina got to the Final Four; Kentucky and UConn got to the Elite 8; Kansas made it to the Sweet 16; Indiana was in the tournament; and Duke was a no show. I then averaged out yearly results, which you can see at the bottom. Duke led the field averaging a Sweet Sixteen berth and closer to an Elite 8. UNC and Kansas also averaged a Sweet Sixteen, while Kentucky, UCLA, and Uconn averaged a 2nd round showing. However if you look closely, Kentucky is closer to averaging a Sweet Sixteen than Duke is to averaging an Elite 8. We are firmly entrenched in the lowest tier with UConn and Indiana. Personally I find this an ignominious state for the school with the most National Championships of any.

These averages coincide almost perfectly with the amount of National Championships a school has won in this time frame. The anomaly being UConn.


Finally I tallied up the amount of no shows for this time frame. Once again the results align almost perfectly, and once again UConn is the lone anomaly.


One final data point, the number of coaches each school as gone through in that time.


Now for the ever important interpretation of all this data. The first thing that struck was the Uconn Anomaly. They simply do not behave as the model predicts. Duke and UNC are tournament fixtures with deep runs being the average not the exception. Coincidentally they each have won the most NCs in the modern era. UConn however, has just as many NCs, with by far the most amount of No Shows of all the schools I analyzed above. The one correlation I could find was that both Duke and UConn have each had the same coach for the whole time. (Actually, Dominic Perno coached UConn for the first 2 years of the modern era. But since 1986 it has been Jim Calhoun the whole time.) What this tells me is that there is something to be said for picking a horse and sticking with him. This bodes well for Ben Howland.

However, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky have changed coaches as much as we have. Kansas being the exception they have had 3 coaches to our 4 in this time frame. The other big difference has been that they have won multiple National Championship with their multitude of coaches while we have only managed the one. (UNC=3, Kansas=2, Kentucky=2) Since this takes into account a period of time largely before the Ben Howland era began, this does not bode well for our leaders. Roy Williams for example coached at both Kansas and North Carolina; he has been associated with deep tournament runs while at Kansas, and has won 2 National Championships at UNC. Clearly these schools went after the best coaches they could.

Also of interest is the fact that North Carolina flopped around and experimented with Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty before going after Roy Williams. So, like ourselves, they have also experimented with hires out of their own family and hoped it would work, just like we did. The difference being that they had tried hiring Roy Williams before being turned down and settling on Matt Doherty. The tenure of Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty were short lived, however, which suggests to me that the administration was able to identify a coach that was not getting the job done quickly and move on. That is leadership: identifying a problem and acting decisively.

This is what made me think our problem goes beyond Dan Guerror's obvious incompetence. Lavin was hired before he came aboard. Our problem is one that has existed for some time. This made me go back and analyze our coaches along this same metric.


I think we all agree that Walt Hazzard was a better coach than Steve Sixteen. But, he is the one the admin was willing to pull quickly. Huge mistake. It's interesting to me that Harrick and Howland have identical averages. Except Harrick had a National Championship, and Howland coached in one. The other difference? Harrick never had a no show. Sure, he got booted in the first round a few times, but he never failed to make the tournament. Once again, and others may disagree, I think firing Jim Harrick was one of the worst mistakes UCLA has ever made. One year removed from winning a National Championship, and he is fired for buying recruits and players a lobster dinner. At Southern Cal this would have been dismissed as an honest mistake and they would have donated something to charity to appease the NCAA and they would have walked away with a wrist slap. I've heard it said that Jim Harrick was actually fired for butting heads with the administration. If this is true, it just underscores that they do not have nor have ever had their heads in the right place. None of the other schools have shown as bone headed a move as firing a NC winning coach or hiring a Lavin type replacement for that matter.

Where does this leave us? Analyzing all the results, I came away with two convictions: UCLA's malaise is institutional. It transcends tenures. It allows for people like Jim Harrick and Walt Hazzard to be fired, and it allows for people like Steven Lavin and Dan Guerrero to be hired. People like Walt Hazzard are shown the door immediately, while Lizards and Donuts are given long tenures and golden parachutes.

The other thing conviction I came away with is that we would be better served to be patient with Ben Howland. I charted coaches with National Championships from my study and tracked how many years it took for them to win a NC as well as the amount of No Shows (This includes NIT appearances) each coach has had after their first appearance in The Tournament.


The time it has taken him is not so far out of the ordinary. However, the number of no shows is right up there with the longest tenured coaches such as Dean Smith and Jim Calhoun. Of course, these guys have multiple NCs to their names. The question Bruins should be asking themselves is a Uconn kind of run acceptable? Probably not. Multiple Championships are nice, but I still think an elite program should have more NCs than no shows in any given period. That being said, is a M Krzyzewski type run likely? Probably not. His is the closest tenure to that of our own Coach Wooden. This is once in a lifetime kind of expectations. Where do we draw the line?

I would give Howland a short leash and focus on cleaning up the cancer that has infiltrated so deeply within our beloved university. Howland should feel some pressure to perform. That is the only way he will seek to improve. Krzyzewski has stated it was the pressure to beat UNC and Dean Smith that led him to develop his system for winning. Dean Smith has said it was seeing himself burned in effigy by protesting students after a particularly disappointing defeat that led him to develop the 4 corner offense.

So, Coach Howland, if you don't mind me saying so: get your head out of your ass and overcome your hang ups with playing underclassmen. Defense wins championships, but offense fills seats. Your boss is not your friend; it's OK to call him out for his bullshit such as betraying the students by taking their seats or sentencing you to a season in a hellish arena. And for the love of God, stop playing favorites. Especially when your favorites such as Nikola Dragovic and Josh Smith are going to get you fired for under-performing and therefore taking the team with them. Cowboy up, and if that dog don't hunt; shoot it.

[Update] ~ I'm such a dumbass. The one big thing I went into this analysis was to make this singular point: Are we justified in demanding a more competitive Basketball Program? My answer is yes. Over the last 27 years Duke, UNC, and UConn have each won 3 National Championships. That averages out to once every 9 years. Yes, Duke and UConn have been led by one man, but UNC proves you can win on the same average having gone through a number of coaches as we have. Kansas and Kentucky have each one 2 over 27 years which averages out to once every 13.5 years. Meanwhile, it was 20 years between Coach's last Championship and the 1995 Championship Jim Harrick brought to Westwood. We are now 4 years from making it yet another 20 years. We know we aren't going to win one this year. IF and that's a mighty big if, Shabazz comes to Westwood, we might have a shot at next year, but even if he came there is no guarantee.

Once every 20 years is simply not acceptable. Before looking at the numbers, I would have said, once every ten years is acceptable. I was blown away when I realized we might go 20 between Championships. For every Morgan Center apologist that cries out we are not in the same league as Duke; keep in mind UNC a public school, has done the same while moving coaches, and UConn has done it while missing out on the tournament altogether a staggering 13 times. Neither of those 3 schools is in as big a talent pool as Los Angeles.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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