Coach Howland's Replacement Criteria: BN Roundtable

Andy Lyons

The BN frontpagers discuss which criteria, Ben Howland's successor must fulfill in order to be considered a successful hire.

Amid a week of heavy chatter, speculation and a heavy dose of trolling from the clueless national media regarding who may be the next great basketball coach at UCLA, the BN frontpagers have discussed in this week's roundtable, which criteria, the next coach must fulfill in order to be considered a successful hire. While Coach Jim Mora has been a resounding success in year 1, instilling toughness and a swift change in culture, we all know that our fearless chianti swilling AD bungled the search so we discuss everything from the search process to our top candidates.

You can track all of the up to date information regarding the coaching search here.

1. Now that Ben Howland has officially been dismissed (following another classic Chianti Dan "he's not fired, oh wait, he is fired" debacle), who do you think UCLA should have on its short-list of candidates for the position?

Bellerophon: Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart, Billy Donovan are the top three that should be on the short-list. Before going after these guys, UCLA should make a call to Tom Izzo, Bill Self, and Phil Jackson. I expect all three to quickly say no (Izzo and Self because they are comfortable in their current jobs, have good money, and have solid backing from the administration/boosters/staff; Zen Master because he's a NBA guy and because I think he's truly done with coaching), but you should at least ask. Hell, what if by just the one-in-a-billion chance, one of them wants to come to Westwood? It's worth the call. If Stevens, Smart, and Donovan aren't available, then UCLA should look at Rick Pitino as a short-term solution, or hell, even Larry Brown as a short-term solution. The key is not hiring some NBA re-tread (either Van Gundy or Kurt Rambis), some project coach (we do not need the basketball version of Karl Dorrell, meaning no to Cameron Dollar), or some scrub that would represent a major step-down from Howland (such as Lorenzo Romar, Sean Miller, Herb Sendek), and absolutely no-way-in-hell to bringing back the Lizard from St. John's. I would think between Stevens, Smart, Donovan, and Pitino, UCLA should be able to get one of the four (my money is on Stevens or Smart, since my guess is Donovan would use UCLA's interest to leverage more money from Florida).

AHMB: Admittedly, I haven't been as in tune with college hoops for a couple of years. I simply couldn't watch Howland's program, and as a result, I don't know enough about a lot of coaches to give an opinion. I do know enough to say that Shaka Smart would be my top target. His VCU teams run the style of basketball that athletes want to play and people want to watch. He's taken teams deep in the tournament with inferior talent, and his teams have consistently performed well in the past few seasons.

gbruin: I can repeat the usual suspects, but B got most of those names above. My personal preference would be Smart or Stevens. Another couple names I'll throw out that we should consider, mostly if the above names are no-gos, are Jay Wright at Villanova, Randy Bennett at St Mary's, and Tad Boyle at Colorado. There are probably several other good names I'm leaving off the list, but luckily we have a top notch AD who won't any stone unturned. Oh, wait...

tasser10: I feel much less confident giving out a name for a basketball coach than for a football coach, for some reason. 4 years ago, I would never have thought Howland could fail so badly, I thought he would bring a steady top notch performance to UCLA. I know the names I don't want with much more conviction. All the names mentioned until now should do well at UCLA. For excitement, I'd say Shaka. For consistency and longevity, Stevens. For excellence right away, Pitino or Donovan. I don't know how good Wright is but he is charismatic and would be well received by donors and recruits. Tad Boyle is an overachiever, he might be great.

Achilles: I'm going to stay away from specific names. I'm of the belief that any of the name candidates have the potential to do well, but there are likely ten other people, shoot, twenty other people who would do a great job as well. It's impossible for me to know anything more about potential candidates than I glean from watching them on the sidelines. It's the AD's job to know the names of the name and the great no-name candidates. My criteria would be to hire someone with (1) head coaching experience, (2) a track record of getting the most out of his players and program, (3) someone who would hire great assistants and have the willingness to delegate responsiblities and (4) a sense of humor, because being the head basketball coach at UCLA gets ridiculous sometimes. (Edit: See my answer to Question 2. To make them different, I'm going to have to throw out a name. My name is Stevens. I think it's an obvious choice. But I love what he's done at Butler. I like the fact that he's got all the right criteria, but that eventually he'd be known as UCLA's Brad Stevens, assuming he wins a title. Rick Pitino would consider UCLA just another line on his resume. They have titles from other schools. I like Smart, too, but must admit I haven't watched as many VCU games, so that's on me. Billy Donovan would be very okay with me as well.

freesia39: SHAKA SHAKA SHAKA SHAKA SHAKA SHAKA SHAKA. Followed closely by STEVENS STEVENS STEVENS STEVENS STEVENS STEVENS STEVENS. I know several people will consider going the NBA route, although I don't know if lightning can strike twice by finding another not so successful NFL coach and turning them into a college coach (and it's still VERY early to consider it a 100% success) but consider calling Brian Shaw, just so he can turn you down. Show you're serious about hiring a quality coach before we back into a lower tier candidate. If this were two seasons ago, I would have championed Randy Bennett but after his NCAA sanctions, I'm not as keen on him.

bruinclassof10: Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens are my top 2. Young guys who have accomplished more with less and are ambitious and hungry to win it all. I know Pitino and Donovan have been mentioned in the mix too but I'd like to see UCLA be unconventional for once and do something like Miami did. The U made decent strides with Coach Haith who is now at Mizzou, but has had a pretty outstanding year with former George Mason head coach Jim Larranga.

2. If by some miracle Chianti Dan was fired and you were appointed Athletic Director and given complete control at Morgan Center, what would you be looking for in your new men's basketball head coach?

Bellerophon: Well, first I'd purge Morgan Center of all of Chianti's minions. I'd make sure to give Mark Harlan a strong and swift kick in the ass as I threw him out of the building. For Howland's replacement, I'm looking primarily for a coach with prior head coaching experience and who has a proven track record of success in the NCAA tournament. Ideally, someone from a top conference and someone who has won a national title. Being a strong recruiter isn't a top priority for me: I'd rather have a strong in-game X's and O's kind of coach, someone who knows when to use a zone and when to use man-to-man defense. An up-tempo offense would be a nice change for UCLA. Ideally, the head coach will be someone who can develop a good relationship with the kids once they're in the program, but if he has to hire an assistant or two to be the point man on recruiting, that's fine, although I'd prefer someone more like Jamie Dixon or Kerry Keating than Korey McCray and his shady AAU pipeline.

AHMB: The most important aspect that I would want to see would be organizational skills. The program has not had any real direction for a number of years. Roster management is important, both in terms of making sure the personalities and egos on the team fit together, and making sure the players fit the type of system the coach employs. Howland failed in both regards, as evidenced by the high rate of early departures and the inability to play the type of defense that Howland coaches. There are other factors that are important, such as style of play, knowledge of the AAU and west coast recruiting scene, and desire to be at UCLA, but nothing trumps organizational skills in my opinion.

gbruin: I think we all agree we need a coach with a good X's and O's background. But beyond that, our basketball coach is really the general manager of the basketball program, so a major consideration should be the coach's ability to manage and inspire the people around him. That refers to the coach's relationship with the players from being an effective recruiter to a great mentor to them through their college career and beyond. It refers to the coach's ability to build bridges with the high school and AAU communities. It refers to the coach's ability to share control with his assistants, and his willingness to allow excellent assistants on staff as opposed to yes-men. It refers to his ability to advocate for his program internally with the athletic department and externally with the media. It refers to the coach's ability to adjust and adapt to the personnel and the situation around him.

tasser10: The first thing I would look for is experience and a history of success as defined by Coach. Then I would delve into the basketball acumen, game planning ability and ability to adjust within a game. Our next coach absolutely has to be able to relate to players and, secondarily, be able to shmooze with donors. Finally, he has to surround himself with motivated and capable assistants who complement him.

Achilles: Okay, it was really dumb of me to answer the first question without reading through to the second question because I answered the second question with my non-answer to the first question. So, see above.

freesia39: I want someone with good coaching experience, and that is as a head coach, NOT as an assistant. Further, someone who understands recruiting and will not destroy relationships to chase highly sought after athletes. You can go for the one and dones but you need to supplement with players that will stay 2-3 years at least. I want someone that will play to the strengths of their team, and maintain their identity so when kids go "Oh, yes UCLA, they play XYZ basketball." I want someone who will respect UCLA basketball, and represent UCLA basketball at the highest level. When I talk to kids about UCLA, it almost always moves into sports (whether or not by their choosing) and I want to be able to say that we have a great sports program that will round out their time in college.

bruinclassof10: If I were the AD of UCLA, my basketball coach hire would have an edge to him (like Mora) but also be a player's coach. The coach would need to understand UCLA basketball's history and Coach's way, and respect the tradition and greatness, by expecting greatness and build upon the legacy that Coach created. The new coach would need to have good people management skills, basketball savvy, be able to recruit in California first and foremost, and coach an exciting brand of basketball. Another key component would be the new coach's ability to adapt to the talent that he has on the roster. A bonus would be watching the head coach clown Doug Gottlieb (like Mora).

3. Do you expect Chianti Dan to do this coaching search properly?

Bellerophon: I like the odds of me successfully completing emergency open heart surgery without ever having gone to medical school more than Chianti Dan's odds of not bungling this coaching search.

AHMB: I don't really expect Chianti to conduct this coaching search. There were whispers that he didn't handle the Mora hiring, and I believe much of his power has been rightfully taken away.

gbruin: Properly? Of course not. What has he done to make us expect that he would do this search properly? AHMB is right about the Mora hiring, and I am hopeful that another group of emotionally, intellectually, and financially invested alums are really driving the search for the new basketball coach, too.

tasser10: I am pretty sure Chianti is removing himself from this search so that he doesn't have to bear the responsibility or consequences. I don't think I know any other AD who has fired and hired 5 coaches in 10 years his major revenue sports. The game is different this time around for UCLA, with the Pac-12 network, a deal with ESPN and much more cash available to lure a big time coach. Everyone thinks that Chianti is a terrible AD, and rightly so, but if you're a coach, wouldn't you want to work for a guy who has a history of holding on to coaches for too long? He likes to give second chances for second chances.

Achilles: I have little confidence. To me, the biggest weakness we have is that he's just not particularly impressive. We're all hearing "the money is there." It's because the donors are now involved and there is lots of Pac 12 tv money to be spent. Okay, I buy that. But at the end of the day, these guys have to ask themselves if they want DG as their boss. They have to wonder if DG is going to help them build their program. I'm just not sure what impression he makes. When you look at the big hires he's made previously, Neuheisel, Dorrell and Mora had no other offers. The first two were alumni who really wanted to come to UCLA and Mora was in broadcasting. Now, I think we may have found a gem in Mora, no doubt and I'm big enough to give DG some credit for that. But hiring Mora away from the NFL Network is not the same thing as prying Billy Donovan away from Florida. Brad Stevens has a good job now and is on everyone's short list -- he doesn't have to come to UCLA to kickstart his coaching career. So, I'm concerned. All that said, it's still UCLA basketball. Coaches know that despite everything, they can recruit great players to UCLA and compete for a national title. It's a rare thing we offer and someone good is going to want to take the job.

freesia39: We have resources. We have the name "UCLA Basketball" which is our top brand. It better be done well. Get that search firm on the phone.

bruinclassof10: I literally laughed out loud at this question. We all know Chianti Dan's "process" all too well. He's either going to do two things. He'll either completely bungle this search by throwing cash at the first coach who brings in a box of fresh donuts to the interview, then laugh at Gene Block's ignorant ass all the way to cashing his $750 K bonus, or he'll do what he does best and delegate the work to an outside firm to do his job, and proceed to take all credit in the next Word from Westwood blog e-mail. We know the drill. Here. Now. We Have an Incompetent Athletic Director.

Bruins Nation, feel free to share your answers to the questions and pose some of your own criteria for Ben Howland's replacement.

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