During another frustrating Lavin season, I had had enough. The starting lineups were about to be announced, and the non-starters were lined by the bench as they always do. Just at the moment that I raised my voice, there was a pause in Pauley. No band, no p.a. announce, no crowd noise. Our seats back t then were on the floor behind the UCLA basket, so the Bruins' bench was right in front of us. And at the top of my lungs, I yelled, "Show some heart!" That's when reserve Matt Barnes looked right at me with a curious look on his face.
Lavin's teams had been frustrating to watch. They'd been called many things - sloppy, jungle ball, disorganized. I could almost forgive that if the players had more heart, more grit, more desire. I remember less talented 'sc teams coming in and beating us as I turned to my dad and said "they just have more junkyard dog in them." For twenty years, I've played in a regular weekly game. And like anyone knows, there are a lot of things that one can not control on the court, but one can always have a positive effect on the game by playing hard, defending, boxing out and rebounding. Some of the flashier players never thought they had to do those things, so when their shot didn't fall, they were worthless on the court. Not only because they couldn't offer anything else, but they just didn't care about being out there. That's how I felt so many of Lavin's teams played (until some of them made up that nonsense of us vs. the world because of unrealistic fan expectation, and then would put together a mini-run, ending, where else, at the Sweet 16).
So, when I yelled out "show some heart," what I saw in Matt Barnes' face was someone who just didn't get what I was saying. I don't blame him as he was an underclassman at the time. It was the coach's fault for not appearing to demand that out of his players.
And that brings us to today. We've gotten punched twice in the mouth, and instead of fighting back, we slinked off into the corner with our tail between our legs. In those two second halves, we got outworked, out-muscled and out-hustled. I saw Tigers and Blue Devils flying to every loose ball and rebound. I saw us just waiting. I saw us looking confused. I saw our players' minds trying to figure out why they suddenly couldn't score their usual 45 points in a twenty minute span.
What does our coach do when all this is happening? Nothing. Silence. In fact, I think I see the same expression on his face that I saw on Matt Barnes. No adjustments. No tweaking the rotation. No feel for which players were clicking, and which weren't. I know much has been made here about why he shouldn't be our coach for other offenses. But there is plenty on the court, as well, to show why we can't waste another seven years floundering around in mediocrity. To the national media - we're not spoiled (most are like me having only experienced one national championship while you insist we were all there for the other ten, demanding that same dominance). But we are smart, and know good coaching when we see it. Coach Howland was a good coach who lost his way. This coach doesn't even know where the on ramp is.