It's Monday morning and Ben Howland and the Bruins are returning to Westwood with a pair of wins following a Pac-12 road trip weekend. Six seasons ago, when Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook still wore the Blue and Gold, that would have been an expected, yet celebrated, result. Fast forward to the present, and it's a weird Monday morning in Westwood. On one hand, in the short term, it feels great to see UCLA win on the road in conference play, and especially great to see these young kids enjoying themselves and enjoying winning. On the other hand, looking at the long-term picture, this weekend's results smack of "too little, too late" for Ben Howland as he desperately tries to extend his time in Westwood.
Is Ben Howland a solid basketball coach? Probably. Certainly, his body of work throughout his entire career suggests that is true. Is Ben Howland the right basketball coach for UCLA? Not anymore. Ben should certainly be applauded for taking a program cratered by Lavin and bringing in such exceptional Bruins like AA, JF, DC, JS, KL, LRMAM, LMR, AA2, RW, and MR. He should get kudos from the Bruin faithful for the three consecutive runs to the Final Four. Hell, if he makes it back to the final dance again, and even manages to finally pull it off and bring UCLA its twelfth national title, he will deserve applause, but he won't deserve to stay in Westwood.
Does that sound crazy? Sure, on the face of it. But, as Kentucky shows us (currently unranked at 10-5 overall), even the defending national champion cannot expect to maintain elite consistency when a roster is built around one-and-done talent. Look at UCLA's roster. Next season, Shabazz will be making millions in the NBA; Kyle Anderson, although not ready for the NBA, will follow Tyler Honeycutt and countless other Bruins who left too early rather than keep playing for Howland; Larry Drew II will graduate; barring some dramatic reversal, Tony Parker is all-but-assured of transferring out of Westwood. That leaves us with Jordan Adams, Norman Powell, the Wear twins, and a trio of true freshman (Zach LaVine, Allerik Freeman, and Noah Allen) that are good, but nowhere near as good as the trio of Shabazz, Kyle, and Parker. To be blunt, the Wear twins, Powell, Adams, and some solid freshman are not going to be good enough to win the conference in 2013-14, let alone make it deep in March Madness. The West Coast talent is simply not coming to UCLA because of the toxic situation with Howland. So, while this year is a nice, fun ride, it's hard to sit back and enjoy it as we did back in the days of Afflalo, Farmar, Collision, Westbrook, and Love, because in the back of our minds, we all know this ride isn't sustainable long-term, that this one-and-done squad is Howland's last bullet before the Bruins crumble back to the mediocrity that has defined Howland's time in Westwood since Collison left.
So, on one hand, yeah these weekend wins feel good. On the other hand, it's hard to enjoy it when you know it's only fleeting. So, with all of that said, let's turn to the various bits and pieces of news floating around the UCLA-iverse this Monday morning:
- Starting with our men's club hockey team (we don't have a NCAA varsity team due to a combination of financial reasons, Morgan Center incompetence, and the consequences of Title IX, among other reasons), the Bruins took on and defeated our hated crosstown rival, the Southern Cal Trojans, 7-3 to win the season's best-of-five series and bring the Crosstown Cup back to Westwood. In case you're curious, you can see our Bruins posing with the Cup on their Twitter feed.
- Turning to Coach Cori Close and our #14-ranked Lady Bruins basketball team, the women picked up a pair of conference wins this weekend by sweeping the Washington schools at Pauley, beginning with a 78-52 beatdown of Washington State on Friday night. The Bruins were led by Atonye Nyingifa big night (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals), with a lot of help from Markel Walker (9 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds), Thea Lemberger (13 points), Nirra Fields (10 points, 5 steals), and Alyssia Brewer (10 points, 7 rebounds).
- The Lady Bruins kept it going on Sunday afternoon by turning in a dominating performance in an offensive shoot-out against Washington, winning 85-68. The Bruins were led by Jasmine Dixon's double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), with Nyingifa (17 points, 8 rebounds), Lemberger (10 points, 4 assists), Walker (11 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds), and Brewer (10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals) all bringing double-digit scoring. With the pair of wins, the Lady Bruins stand at 13-2 overall and 4-0 in Pac-12 play.
- Finally, turning to the academic side of the university, UCLA added two big names to the faculty roster. Beginning this past fall, UCLA has housed the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz as part of the School of Music: this week, the Institute announced that Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, both Grammy Award winning artists (and both connected to the great Miles Davis), have joined the faculty to teach graduate music students in Westwood.
Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites to start the work week with. Fire away with your thoughts, takes, and additions in the comments thread.