I honestly thought it would end this way; I just thought it would be Sunday against Florida. Regardless this is the end of Ben Howland as coach of UCLA. In some ways the game did not make sense as UCLA out rebounded a great rebounding team but had their worst shooting game of the season:
UCLA's season - and perhaps Ben Howland's tenure - ends in one of the ugliest efforts of the season. Plenty of stats to choose from here, but Minnesota's 50.8% shooting to the Bruins' 31.7% spells this one out fairly clearly. UCLA actually held a 42-36 advantage on the boards, with 19 offensive rebounds coming on all those misses.
Howland is no longer the issue as one ESPN writer put it:
Ben Howland made it way too easy.
The embattled UCLA coach was supposed to scratch, claw and fight for the remaining years on his contract and, perhaps, have his team -- a group of players assembled with the most hype this side of Kentucky -- ready to play, rather than resigned to play, in the NCAA tournament. But instead of playing like they were backed into a corner, the coach and his sixth-seeded Bruins decided to exit stage left, losing rather haphazardly to No. 11 seed Minnesota 83-63 in the round of 64 on Friday at the Erwin Center. Now the wonder around Westwood is whether Howland will be shown the door after 10 seasons.
In a way the villain of this piece is Dan Guerrero. No one can say this is a surprise. Yes the Minnesota part is and the nature of the loss but the fact we failed to get to the sweet 16 again. The scary thing is this can be argued as the best finish in the last five years. It was Guerrero who decided to keep Howland for that number one recruiting class. And what did it get UCLA? An appearance in the NCAA tournament. Was it worth it Dan?
And UCLA may not have any of that class besides Jordan Adams next year.
Muhammad, Anderson and Parker all said they would huddle with their families before making a decision.
"I'm not sure what the future holds for me," Anderson said. "I'm just proud of the guys for the season."
It may have been Howland's last season. He and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero are expected to meet early next week - Guerrero usually meets with coaches at season's end.
Guerrero declined to comment after the game. Asked about his future, Howland said, "No comment."
I guess Guerrero can decline comment but he (or UCLA) needs to act fast.
Kyle Anderson, who is thought to be returning for his sophomore year, demonstrated why he should with a 2-for-11 night and four turnovers.
Tony Parker was a force in the middle until the fouls got him, and why Howland didn't nurture him more will be one of the hanging questions.
Guerrero didn't want to deal with the biggest question. "Tough game," he said, speaking for all those who were forced to watch it.
Tough game, tough five years. This is not about Ben Howland anymore. He is gone. This about Dan and the next step. Money is not the issue.
But now is not the time to bash Ben Howland. He is gone. As ESPN wrote he made it too easy. Dan can fire him now and no one would complain but a few east coast sport writers stuck in 2008.
Ben Howland's departure feels almost imminent, although everyone predictably remained tight-lipped about the his job status. When asked whether he may have coached his final game for the Bruins, he said simply: "No comment."
The 10th-year head coach has had a successful tenure that included three straight Final Fours, but a first-round exit wasn't what fans expected after a top-rated recruiting class and No. 13 preseason ranking. (Not to mention the two missed tournaments in three years, multiple transfers, etc.) After the game, players either said he deserved to stay, that it was out of their control, or some combination of both.
It's worth noting that senior point guard Larry Drew II was clear in his gratitude toward Howland. Drew had an unremarkable stint in North Carolina before a controversial midseason transfer. Going home to Los Angeles breathed new life into his career, resulting in a spot at the top of the program's single-season assists list.
"Coach Howland giving me this opportunity when I didn't think nobody else would, it means a lot," Drew said. "I think I had a good season here at UCLA. A lot of fun too. Something that was missing from my game prior to me transferring here. I had fun playing the game.
It is over now for Larry Drew II now. It will be over for Ben in a few days, same with Shabazz. Thanks guys for the good things you did. But Dan Guerrero better work fast to make sure it is not over for Kyle Anderson or Tony Parker. It is all on him now.