When it comes to being a leader, Ben Howland - just like his boss Dan Guerrero - is a FRAUD. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Just read through the Sports Illustrated piece appropriately entitled "Not the UCLA Way." It is up on SI.com now. Read it here. My impressions are in line what gbruin blogged earlier this am. The story is not "as bad" as many of us have been fearing, as it doesn't provide any details of systematic abuse of NCAA rules and violations. Although there is one particular nugget that is significant enough to get on NCAA's radar and should generate further queries.
On the other hand, the details in the article is essentially confirms worst of our trepidations concerning an out of control, undisciplined, joke of a garbage basketball program run by Dan Guerrero (yes, this is his program) and Ben Howland, that is a total disgrace to the legacy of Coach John R. Wooden.
Let's get to the possible NCAA issue first. Here is the paragraph that stands out:
There were nights out with current and former NBA players, television stars and models. One evening the partying started at the Beverly Hills mansion of a wealthy UCLA fan. The Bruins were then chauffeured in a Rolls Royce to a West Hollywood club, where several players were ushered past a long line of people and given VIP treatment at a table in the back. Says one player, "We'd go back to the campus bars and students would say, 'Where have you been? We'd be like, 'if you only knew.'"
There are enough details here that should immediate raise questions.
- Who is this "wealthy UCLA fan"?
- What kind of benefits were given to UCLA players when they attended this party?
- Was this the only instance of partying at mansion of wealthy UCLA fans?
- What does "VIP treatment" mean? What did "VIP treatment" entail? Did that entail free alcohol, drugs?
- Was anyone keeping Howland informed of these events and raising red flags about possible NCAA issues?
- Did anyone at the Athletic Department raise any red flags around these kinds of events and making sure the athletes and the coaches were properly notified regarding the acceptable parameters within NCAA rules?
Those are some questions I can think of right off the bat, I'd ask if I knew if members of the hallmark program of my athletic department were engaging in these kinds of actions. Where was Chianti Dan on all this? Remember former UCLA coach Jim Harrick was fired by former athletic director Pete Dalis for not being honest about meal tab at Montys (a steak joint in the Westwood). Ponder that while you digest the nugget above.
Now that's the NCAA related angle. If NCAA was a properly functioning institution they'd put UCLA on the spot about that detail. We know how those guys are.
The bigger issue here is Guerrero and Howland's total lack of control over our program. Let's go over the significance of this piece and how it serves as a blistering indictment on total lack of leadership around Guerrero's dumpster fire program after the jump.
First, let's talk about some of the details reported in the piece. The details concerning widespread lack of discipline by guys such as Reeves Nelson, Drew Gordon, Jerime Anderson are not much of a surprise to us. We had heard a lot of this stuff in the background. Now, to plugged in UCLA basketball fans who are so desensitized to the dysfunctional attributes of Guerrero's program, this story may not seem like a big deal at first blush. But if you take a step back and see this from a non-UCLA perspective, this is potentially a death blow to UCLA basketball as long as Chianti and Ben are in Westwood. The details of a program where bunch of inmates are running the asylum are going to be shocking to basketball fans around the country and even to casual UCLA fans who may not be paying much attention.
It will be shocking to find out for an average fan how Howland reportedly pressed a student manager for details on the guys partying and bullied him to cough up details, only to reportedly fire that student manager for partying with the players, instead of disciplining the players themselves. It will be repulsive to read about how Howland instead of trying to rein in a program where players were out of control and fighting with each other, he was reportedly making "light of one his players receiving a punch to the face." It is pretty disgusting to read how Howland called Matt Carlino a "quitter" after he left the program because of getting sick and tired of physical abuse from Nelson.
One can bet that every major coach will be emailing this piece to every blue-chip recruits for the class of 2013 and beyond, ensuring parents see what kind of "leader" Howland is when it comes to disciplining his players. Perhaps guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker will still come to Westwood to play the role of bunch of mercenaries next year in Westwood. However, beyond them it is reasonable to assume this kind of PR would present a crushing blow to the prospects of recruiting under Howland.
As bad as Howland looks as someone who is clueless and out of touch, the guy who looks worse is none other than Chianti Dan. Reading through the piece it was not a surprise to see this guy's name absent until the very end referencing a tone-deaf, supportive comment of Howland. The piece does confirm our well founded impression of an overpaid and incompetent bureaucrat, who has no pulse of what is happening with the program. It paints the picture of an athletic department devoid of real leadership and without any sense of accountability from the bottom to the very top.
If you are an alum of UCLA, who believes in the spirit behind those four letters, you should feel sad. You should feel sad about how guys like Guerrero and Howland have spit all over the legacies of Coach Wooden and burned his program to the ground. Apologies from these clowns will not be good enough. Opening up a "renovated'" Pauley featuring a bunch of mercenary recruits will not be good enough.
UCLA needs new leadership at the top of its athletic department, who can bring in a basketball coach who can actually live up the job duties that entails being the "caretaker" of the greatest college program ever built in America.