Some UCLA fans were rooting for UCLA to lose to Cal State Northridge Wednesday night. They realize that UCLA basketball is done for the season and believe in the rip the Band-Aid off all at once versus slowly. Of course with UCLA's Athletic Director it might never be ripped off. We at Bruins Nation always want UCLA to win but last night did nothing to change our mind that Ben Howland needs to go now and Dan Guerrero with him if he does not act soon.
UCLA won the game for one reason. UCLA played a zone the whole game.
Coach Ben Howland said he plans to ''coach my tail off'' to help steady the turbulence surrounding a team that boasted one of the nation's top recruiting classes this season but lost to Cal Poly and fell out of the Top 25 this week.
. . . Howland started four guards alongside forward Travis Wear to give the Bruins stronger ball handling and they played zone.
''UCLA's zone threw us off a little bit,'' Northridge coach Bobby Braswell said. ''We were expecting it, but we didn't expect that they would use it all 40 minutes. We didn't attack it right. UCLA got out and ran and it's a lot easier to do that from a zone.''
Howland did what the people in the cheap seats (well at least on the Internet) have been telling him to do for a while and he blew out a decent team.
1. Ben Howland finally goes zone as this team needed to do so from the start on the day the player best suited to play zone, Josh Smith, quits the team. Irony alert.
2. The zone not only made UCLA defense effective, it keyed UCLA's successful running game. For the first time this season the Bruins ran successfully and the reason was the zone defense.
3. When Howland starts to "coach my tail off" he benched one of the Wears for the first time since, well, I don't know remember when.
However the bigger issue has not been addressed and cannot be as long as Ben is coach. Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith will not be the last to leave. As the math challenged (he talks about 8 leaving, it is a much higher number) Vincent Bonsignore put it:
Meanwhile Howland remains, saying all the right things and telling us Smith and Lamb are great kids for whom he wishes the best and sometimes things just don't work out. . . .
. .. Sorry, that reeks of a fundamental problem within the UCLA program.
And with the one common denominator being Howland, we have no choice but to wonder if the same coach who restored the greatness at UCLA by guiding the Bruins to three straight Final Fours from 2006-08 is the person holding them back.
. . . This shouldn't be news to anyone. If you know anything about UCLA basketball and Howland, you've likely heard the stories about his rough exterior and peculiar personality.
. . .
The season might be just beginning, but it's already looking like the same movie we've seen the past three years. And we know how it ends - the Bruins maybe sneaking into the NCAA Tournament, or maybe not. Even if they do, their stay lasts a game or two before getting banished.
Leaving us to ask, once again, what in the world is going on in Westwood?
So great, Howland finally agreed starting two Wears may not be a good idea and a zone is a good idea. But there are more short term problems of Howland's making. Losing Smith and Lamb is not just bad for the program long term health it causes a lot of short term damage:
With the departures, Howland said he would go with an eight-man rotation, with junior Sooren Derboghosian and sophomore David Brown as the ninth and 10th players.
Are you kidding me? A ninth man is going to play at some point when the game matters. What if someone gets hurt? And on the other side Kyle Anderson is now going to probably have to play point guard, small forward, power forward and center before the year is over.
But forget about the players we hope only play in blowouts, what about the current players? How does all this chaos affect them?
When asked about all the drama surrounding the team of late, Wear said, simply, "It's not fun."
"I'd like to be able to focus on basketball and not have these issues occur," he said. "Especially at the beginning of the season when you're trying to form an identity, it really affects you.
And that is just it "lately" goes back to 2008.
But dating back to 2008, the Bruins have had at least 11 players leave their program.
Those departures include Chace Stanback (2008), Drew Gordon (2009), Mike Moser (2010), J'mison Morgan (2010), Matt Carlino (2010), Reeves Nelson (2011), Brendan Lane (2012), De'End Parker (2012), Anthony Stover (2012), Lamb and Smith.
UCLA needs to fire Howland today but we are talking about the UCLA athletic department. A Howland era tradition continued last night:
Joshua Smith graced the cover of the UCLA basketball game program Wednesday night, an awkward bit of timing considering that the talented but overweight junior center quit the Bruins' team earlier in the day, citing "personal reasons."
This happened before with Matt Carlino and currently the UCLA athletics web page features Tyler Lamb. Everyone except the athletic department and the players seem to realize that Howland needs to go. It is obvious the AD needs to go as well.
We will continue to root for the players. We could not be happier for Norman Powell on Wednesday. Norman had a very good game and led UCLA in scoring. He overcame the obstacles of being blamed for the Cal Poly loss and being benched to lead UCLA in scoring. Norman Powell did not mean his quote this way but let me close with a quote by Norman as it is a perfect summation of the truth (emphasis mine):
"UCLA is a great program. It has great tradition, great players who have come out of here and went to the NBA and made a name for themselves.
"UCLA alone is going to stand for something good about basketball, and that's going to attract players no matter who's in the program or who's leaving."
UCLA is a great program and will be so again after Ben Howland and Dan Guerrero leave.