Ben Howland saved his job for this season because of the great recruiting class led by Shabazz Muhammad. This was obviously yet another Dan Guerrero mistake as this roller coaster season will likely not pay off, except in more off the court stories.
No recruiting class will save Ben Howland this year. He is gone barring a miracle run. So let's examine the old Guerrero argument to keep Howland for the recruits. I realize the "wisdom" Dan Guerrero followed last year was "if we fire the coach we lose the recruits." That is not necessarily true for next season.
First let's discuss the best recruit of the class: Zach Lavine. Zach is something special by all accounts: a combo guard who can shoot lights out with very good athletic ability. He could be UCLA ‘s savior as point guard (a bit of a longshot) or he could just replace most of Shabazz's scoring while committing more to defense (more likely). But here is the thing: Zach is not a Howland person but rather a UCLA person. Before he committed to UCLA he said many comments like the following:
"[And] I kind of have an influence towards UCLA because my dad is from California and he always represents them with UCLA gear; so does my uncle. I guess I just have a little bit of a knack towards them too.
"It does affect my recruitment a little bit [since] all my family is from California so they all like UCLA."
If UCLA fires Howland immediately after the season and were to quickly hire the new coach, that coach would have a realistic shot to keep Lavine. I realize many will disagree with me for good reasons; but waiting to fire Howland may be a good thing. If Howland were fired today, Zach would start to look elsewhere while UCLA was in limbo with an interim head coach. IF, and it is a big if, UCLA has its act together and fires Howland and moves quickly on a big coach, that new coach would have a good chance of keeping Zach Lavine.
In a way, Lavine is a key pickup for UCLA as he can help replace both certain departing players: Larry Drew II and Shabazz Muhammad. Obviously the coach would also have to work hard to keep Kyle Anderson (who is no longer projected to be drafted in the first round) and Tony Parker (who is almost certain to go if Howland stays).
However, keeping the current players and Lavine is obviously not enough. UCLA desperately needs recruits. Even the keeping-Tony-Kyle-and-Zach-scenario would leave UCLA with only seven scholarship players next year. Which brings us to the next recruit: Gavin Schilling. Gavin visited during the WSU game.
Findlay Prep's (Nevada) Gavin Schilling, a 6-9, 200-pound forward, has narrowed his college destination down to four choices: Michigan State, Minnesota, UCLA and Villanova.
The three-star prospect out of Chicago is the number 15 ranked center in the nation and has whittled his list down to four final contenders said his Findlay Prep coach Todd Simon on Saturday. . . .
Schilling's high school hoops journey has been a curious one; he played his freshman season at Loyola, then spent a year at an elite basketball school in Germany before spending last season at Chicago's DeLaSalle.
Also able to log minutes at center, Schilling is known as a talented and physical player. While he isn't world class elite, an aspect of his game that could do with some improvement, Schilling can defend the ring, knock down free throws and possesses a good stable of moves around the basket.
Schilling speaks German and goes to school with another committed UCLA recruit Allerik Freeman. From what I have read from most experts, Freeman's commitment was a bit of shock. I don't know if Freeman and Schilling want to go to college together. Their high school, Findlay Prep, is one of those places like Oak Hill in Virginia that "recruits" players from across the country. I will add that it is interesting that Schilling visited UCLA in the middle of this chaos. Minnesota is the leader for him but he would be a good get for UCLA right now and a new coach would almost certainly not be playing two Wears together. He could seemingly play right away with Tony Parker and a new coach.
The other recruit that UCLA is still hot on the tail of is Rysheed Jordan. First on how important Jordan could be:
Scan the top 25 point guards in the Class of 2013 and one thing will stand out about ESPN 100 prospect Rysheed Jordan (Philadelphia/Vaux Roberts), besides his talent: He's the only guy on the list who remains uncommitted. And at a position like point guard, being the best available makes him a highly coveted recruit.
So will Jordan come to UCLA?
Rysheed Jordan provides nary a hint of where he will play his college basketball. And he's a tough one to read. It's as if he has been working on his poker face.
The star point guard from Roberts Vaux says he will eventually choose from three finalists: Temple, St. John's, and UCLA. . .
"He's like the wind," Cougars [his high school] coach Jamie Ross said. "He blows in one direction one day, a different the next."
. .. "He's got natural-born athleticism, he sees the floor well, and he plays with the ease and confidence that good players have," said Norm Eavenson, a recruiting analyst for the Bob Gibbons All Star Report.
If it was not for the Tony Parker show last year, I would say that Rysheed's recruitment is the craziest I have seen in a while. His choices are the college two miles from home (Temple), the college with a person in charge that is hard to call coach (St. John's and Steve Lavin) and UCLA, far from home with a coach in trouble. The only thing certain with Rysheed is he will decide after the season. I have to think a new UCLA coach, if hired quickly, would have at least a chance to convince Jordan to come to UCLA.
UCLA also recruited Noah Allen. Noah is a very smart hard working kid that seems likely to be more of a long term prospect. While he is important to keep when Howland is fired, he would not be a huge loss.
So long story short, there is some reason for guarded optimism regarding next season. A new coach would have a chance to both keep most of a team that is contending for a PAC 12 title, as well as maintain a couple key recruits for the future.
So as we likely struggle this week in Northern California, keep in mind the light at the end of the tunnel may be there pretty quickly with a new coach.