Food for Thought: Should Howland Already Have a Title in Hand?

The question is: with these two guys starting for UCLA, how did Ben not win a national title when he took on Memphis, Calipari, Rose, and roster full of scrubs? (Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images North America)

There's a vein of thought running through the wider Bruin Nation about the viability of Coach Ben Howland, which BN reader Strathmore&Gayley summed up fairly well in the comment thread on this morning's post-Cal game breakdown:

Losing to Cal has become a UCLA tradition. I’m sorry Howlers, you don’t have a leg to Howl on. Howland is not a winner. He couldn’t win a NC with 2 NBA all stars on his team, he won’t win one without any viable NBA material on his team. This is a disgrace. His tenure must be ended. We need a new coach.

I've seen other readers expressing similar thoughts over the last few months about Howland and the wealth of talent UCLA had during those Final Four runs, but until this morning, I never really took the time to look into it. So, let's compare Howland's rosters on those three Final Four teams and the teams that knocked them out of the NCAA tournament and see if Howland properly utilized the talent he had and simply came up short, or if he mismanaged his squad, costing UCLA at least its twelfth national title in men's hoops. Obviously, post-college success is a very rough measure of talent, but for this purpose, I think it works (i.e. you don't get into the NBA if you suck, and likewise, you don't spend your career playing in the Spanish second division, Poland, or Austria if you're very good).

So, let's walk through those rosters, both for UCLA and our opponents, and see how Ben fared, after the jump.

2005-2006 UCLA Bruins

Player Where They Are Now
Starting Line-up
PG - Jordan Farmar
NBA - New Jersey Nets; back-up PG; avg. 22.7 min., 11.1 points, 3.6 assists
SG - Arron Afflalo
NBA - Denver Nuggets; starting SG; avg. 30.2 min., 11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists
SF - Cedric Bozeman
Waived from NBDL - Reno Bighorns due to injury; last in NBA in 2006-2007 season (Atlanta Hawks)
PF - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
NBA - Milwaukee Bucks; starting PF; avg. 22.6 min., 6.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 blocks
C - Ryan Hollins
NBA - Cleveland Cavaliers; back-up C; avg. 10.3 min., 2.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.6 blocks


Bench

SG Janou Rubin
Hungarian B'ball Nat'l Champ. - Soproni KC; starting SG; avg. 32.1 min.,16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists
PG Darren Collison NBA - Indiana Pacers; starting PG; avg. 34.0 min., 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.8 steals
SG/SF Josh Shipp Turkish B'ball League - Galatasaray; starting SF; avg. 20.4 min., 9.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists
PG DeAndre Robinson Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PF Ryan Wright Super B'ball League (Taiwan) - Taiwan Mobile Leopards; starting PF; avg. 37.0 min., 20.0 points, 16.5 rebounds
PF/C Alfred Aboya Venezuela LPB - Bucaneros; back-up PF/C; avg. 18.0 min., 3.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals
C Lorenzo Mata LNBP (Mexico) - Halcones de Xalapa; starting C; avg. 21.9 min., 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists
SG/SF Michael Roll B'ball League Belgium - Antwerp Giants; starting SG; avg. 29.3 min., 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals
PG/SG Kelvin Kim Unknown - transferred to UCSD, no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PG/SG Joey Ellis Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
C Michael Fey
Hungarian B'ball Nat'l Champ. - Kaposvari KK; starting PF; avg. 34.6 min., 17.3 points, 8.9 rebounds
PG Nican Robinson
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball

2005-2006 Florida Gators

Player Where They Are Now
Starting Line-up
PG - Taurean Green
Turkish B'ball League - Tofas Bursa; starting SG; last in NBA in 2007-2008 season (New York/Denver/Portland)
SG - Lee Humphrey
NBDL - Rio Grade Valley Vipers; back-up SG; avg. 27.2 min., 11.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists
SF - Corey Brewer
NBA - Denver Nuggets; back-up SF; avg. 17.0 min., 8.5 points, 2.8 rebounds
PF - Al Horford
NBA - Atlanta Hawks; starting C; injured, out-for-season; 2-time NBA All-Star
C - Joakim Noah
NBA - Chicago Bulls; starting C; avg. 29.0 min., 9.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 blocks


Bench

PG/SG Walter Hodge
PLK (Poland) - Zastal ZG; starting PG; avg. 30.8 min., 17.7 points, 6.4 assists, 1.3 steals
PG/SG Jack Berry
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG David Huertas
BSN (Puerto Rico) - Quebradillas; starting SG; avg. 30.6 min., 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists
PF Adrian Moss
LEB Oro (Spainish Second Division) - Palencia - starting C; avg. 28.2 min., 15.2 points, 6.7 rebounds
PF/C Chris Richard
Last with Liaoning Dinosaurs (Chinese B'ball Assoc.) in 2010-11 season; last in NBA in 2009-10 season (Chicago)
PF/C Jimmie Sutton
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PG/SG Brett Swanson
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG/SF Garrett Tyler
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball

Let's see: when the Bruins met the Gators in the national title game, they had a starting line-up that included 4 NBA players and one guy who briefly went to the NBA but washed out of basketball because of his chronically bad knees (Ced Bozeman might be one of the biggest "what if" stories at UCLA if not for Lavin's terrible coaching and his bad knees). Of those Bruins, two are starters (AA and LRMAM), one is a consistent contributor (JF), and one is a back-up role player (RH). Oh, and of course, there's a NBA starter on the bench (DC). That said, the Gators had a pretty impressive line-up, featuring three future NBA players, one of which is now a two-time All-Star (Horford). So, while the Bruins had more NBA talent, the Gators had some pretty good NBA talent, so you figure this one kind of has to be a wash for Ben (and realistically, on that first run to the Final Four, who thought we'd get that far).

2006-2007 UCLA Bruins

Player Where They Are Now
Starting Line-up
PG - Darren Collison
NBA - Indiana Pacers; starting PG; avg. 34.0 min., 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.8 steals
SG - Arron Afflalo
NBA - Denver Nuggets; starting SG; avg. 30.2 min., 11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists
SF - Josh Shipp
Turkish B'ball League - Galatasaray; starting SF; avg. 20.4 min., 9.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists
PF - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
NBA - Milwaukee Bucks; starting PF; avg. 22.6 min., 6.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 blocks
C - Lorenzo Mata-Real
LNBP (Mexico) - Halcones de Xalapa; starting C; avg. 21.9 min., 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists


Bench

PG/SG Russell Westbrook
NBA - Oklahoma City Thunder; starting PG; avg. 35.1 min., 22.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists; NBA All-Star
PG Mustafa Abdul-Hamid
Liga ABA (Croatia) - BC Krka; back-up PG; avg. 23.9 min., 11.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists
PF James Keefe
BJL (Japan) - Niigata Albirex BB; back-up PF; avg. 13.6 min., 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds
PG DeAndre Robinson Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PF Ryan Wright Super B'ball League (Taiwan) - Taiwan Mobile Leopards; starting PF; avg. 37.0 min., 20.0 points, 16.5 rebounds
PF/C Alfred Aboya Venezuela LPB - Bucaneros; back-up PF/C; avg. 18.0 min., 3.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals
SG/SF David McGrath
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG/SF Michael Roll B'ball League Belgium - Antwerp Giants; starting SG; avg. 29.3 min., 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals
SF/PF Nikola Dragovic
PBL (Russia) - BC Spartak St. Petersburg; back-up PF; avg. 2.0 min., 0.0 points, 0.0 rebounds
PG/SG Joey Ellis Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PG/SG Matt Lee
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball

2005-2006 Florida Gators

Player Where They Are Now
Starting Line-up
PG - Taurean Green
Turkish B'ball League - Tofas Bursa; starting SG; last in NBA in 2007-2008 season (New York/Denver/Portland)
SG - Lee Humphrey
NBDL - Rio Grade Valley Vipers; back-up SG; avg. 27.2 min., 11.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists
SF - Corey Brewer
NBA - Denver Nuggets; back-up SF; avg. 17.0 min., 8.5 points, 2.8 rebounds
PF - Al Horford
NBA - Atlanta Hawks; starting C; injured, out-for-season; 2-time NBA All-Star
C - Joakim Noah
NBA - Chicago Bulls; starting C; avg. 29.0 min., 9.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 blocks


Bench

PG/SG Walter Hodge
PLK (Poland) - Zastal ZG; starting PG; avg. 30.8 min., 17.7 points, 6.4 assists, 1.3 steals
PG/SG Jack Berry
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PF Jonathan Mitchell
LEB Oro (Spainish Second Division) - CB Tarragona; starting PF; avg. 27.0 min., 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds
SG Brandon Powell
Unknown; last with Philippine Patriots (ASEAN B'ball League) in 2009-2010 season
PF/C Chris Richard
Last with Liaoning Dinosaurs (Chinese B'ball Assoc.) in 2010-11 season; last in NBA in 2009-10 season (Chicago)
C Marreese Speights
NBA - Memphis Grizzlies; starting PF; avg. 20.9 min., 7.4 points, 5.7 rebounds
PG/SG Brett Swanson
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG/SF Garrett Tyler
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PF Dan Werner
LB Serie A (Italy) - Virtus Bologna; back-up PF; avg. 7.0 min., 0.9 points, 1.5 rebounds

Well, obviously Florida returned all five of their starters from their national title winning team that beat UCLA the prior year, so that is a big advantage. In terms of raw talent, UCLA had three future NBA starters starting for the Bruins that season (DC, AA, LRMAM) and a future NBA All-Star on the bench (RW), although to be fair to Howland, RW was a very raw freshman, not the high-flying dunk machine we know and love today. So, you sort of have to give Howland a pass on not winning it all when the Gators were in the way.

2007-2008 UCLA Bruins

Player Where They Are Now
Starting Line-up
PG - Darren Collison
NBA - Indiana Pacers; starting PG; avg. 34.0 min., 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.8 steals
SG - Russell Westbrook
NBA - Oklahoma City Thunder; starting PG; avg. 35.1 min., 22.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists; NBA All-Star
SF - Josh Shipp
Turkish B'ball League - Galatasaray; starting SF; avg. 20.4 min., 9.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists
PF - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
NBA - Milwaukee Bucks; starting PF; avg. 22.6 min., 6.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 blocks
C - Kevin Love
NBA - Minnesota Timberwolves; starting PF; avg. 39.6 min., 25.6 points, 13.9 rebounds; 2-time NBA All-Star


Bench

C Lorenzo Mata-Real
LNBP (Mexico) - Halcones de Xalapa; starting C; avg. 21.9 min., 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists
PG Mustafa Abdul-Hamid
Liga ABA (Croatia) - BC Krka; back-up PG; avg. 23.9 min., 11.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists
PF James Keefe
BJL (Japan) - Niigata Albirex BB; back-up PF; avg. 13.6 min., 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds
PG DeAndre Robinson Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG/SF Chace Stanback
NCAA Div. I - UNLV (redshirt senior); starting SF; avg. 28.8 min., 13.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists
PF/C Alfred Aboya Venezuela LPB - Bucaneros; back-up PF/C; avg. 18.0 min., 3.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals
SG/SF David McGrath
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG/SF Michael Roll B'ball League Belgium - Antwerp Giants; starting SG; avg. 29.3 min., 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals
SF/PF Nikola Dragovic
PBL (Russia) - BC Spartak St. Petersburg; back-up PF; avg. 2.0 min., 0.0 points, 0.0 rebounds
PG/SG Joey Ellis Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PG/SG Matt Lee
Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball

2007-2008 Memphis Tigers

Player Where They Are Now
Starting Line-up
PG - Derrick Rose NBA - Chicago Bulls; starting PG; avg. 35.5 min., 22.0 points, 7.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds; 3-time NBA All-Star
SG - Antonio Anderson Waived from NBDL - Maine Red Claws due to injury; last in NBA in 2009-10 season (OKC for 1 game)
SG/SF - Chris Douglas-Roberts LB Serie A (Italy) - Virtus Bologna; starting SG; last in NBA in 2010-11 season (Milwaukee Bucks)
PF - Robert Dozier Pro A League (French First Division) - Cholet Basket; back-up PF; avg. 20.8 min., 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds
PF - Joey Dorsey GBL (Greece) - Olympiacos; back-up PF; avg. 15.8 min., 5.6 points, 5.8 rebounds


Bench

PF/C Shawn Taggart Turkish B'ball League - TED Istanbul; back-up PF; avg. 27.2 min., 15.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks
PG/SG Willie Kemp TBL (Tunisia) - ES Sahel; starting PG; no current statistics available
SF/PF Pierre Niles Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
PG Andre Allen Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG Doneal Mack TBL Second Division (Turkey) - Usak UB; back-up SG; avg. 15.5 min., 9.5 points, 1.5 rebounds
PG/SG Chance McGrady Unknown - no basketball related information available; presumably out of basketball
SG/SF Jeff Robinson OBL (Austria) - Furstenfeld Panthers; starting SG; avg. 28.6 min., 13.4 points, 6.5 rebounds
PF/C Hashim Bailey Transferred to Univ. of Massachusetts; no basketball information available following 2010-11 season

This is the year that is the most damning against Howland. His roster had two NBA All-Stars (RW and KL), and two additional NBA starters (DC and LRMAM). The weakest link was Josh Shipp and he had a bench that included a seasoned veteran defensive specialist in LMR, an outside shooting threat in MR, defensive stoppers like AA2, and a guy who is now part of the UNLV renaissance in Stanback. Who did Calipari have? He had Derrick Rose, clearly the best player on either team, plus a roster full of scrubs. Look at the Memphis line-up. Except for Rose, those guys all suck. There is no reason CDR should have had as good of a game against us as he did. Rose is good, but one player doesn't win the whole show. If that was true, Michael Jordan would have three NCAA titles, not just one. Calipari's bench sucked too. The Bruins clearly had the superior talent (and if you match our roster up against Kansas, who beat Memphis, we had the better talent match-up too) and this was probably (given our program's current sorry state of affairs) Howland's best shot at winning it all.

Should Howland have won it all? Probably not against Florida, but not dropping Memphis and taking on Kansas (which would have favored us, both in the talent match-up, but also our recent history against Kansas in the tournament), was Howland's choke.

Oh, and interesting to note that the biggest, blackest mark against Howland: playing the Belgrade Bricklayer despite his terrible shot-selection, lackluster defense, and embarrassing behavior, on and off the court, all while more talented guys did nothing but warm the bench, is an interesting side note here.

While Chace Stanback and Mike Moser are blowing it up for UNLV (just two parts of the Ben Howland All-Transfer team), Ben's favorite little Bruin, Nikola Dragovic, finds himself buried at the bottom of the depth chart, doing nothing but riding the bench, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Let that sink in: the guy can't even crack the rotation in Russia, yet Howland saw fit to give him the lion's share of minutes in Westwood. Unbelievable.

Brilliant roster management Ben, brilliant.

In any event, fire away with your thoughts, takes, opinions, etc. on Ben's Final Four squads, where all these guys ended up, and if you think Ben should already have UCLA's twelfth national title banner hanging from the rafters of Pauley.

GO BRUINS

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