The day UCLA mercifully fired Steve Lavin (at least three to four years too late) I felt giddy that a coaching fraud would no longer prance around in Pauley Pavilion. And, I also felt a sense of hope with a sense of comfort that we were finally going to get a real coach (and we did) to take over at UCLA. The day UCLA fired Karl Dorrell there was just a sense of relief. After Rick Neuheisel's last game - a Pac-12 championship game in which Bruins gave an inspired effort after the 0-50 debacle - I just felt a sense of sadness, remembering how all the promise and euphoria from the day of his hiring never came close to matching those expectations (except for some good moments on NSDs).
And now here we are - the aftermath of third major coach firings in the eight year of BruinsNation. I really don't know what to feel except play back in my head the video above. Howland made those comments after what turned out the be the best moment of his UCLA career after the Bruins ran Bill Self's Jay Hawks off the court during his second elite eight appearance (in San Jose). Those were some amazing times and we never imagined we'd come to a morning like this until things started to unravel during the Season of
Part of me wants to feel sorry for Howland. I fell in love with the guy who gave us those hard noses teams built on defense and fundamentals anchored by those initialized Ben Ball Warriors. Those were the days and we were all in the world of Howlandwood, before he decided to throw it all away in the name of cheap offense and chasing athletes, who never fit the coaching philosophy that enabled him to experience the amazing success. So, the other part is filled with frustration of watching him dismantle and wreck Coach Wooden's program right infront of our own eyes (while we kept pleading him to adapt while staying true to his roots). So, I really don't know what to feel about Howland except to wish him luck.
Still while the video is perhaps one of my favorite moments from the Howland era in Westwood, it is also the ultimate evidence on the stature of UCLA in the world of college basketball. Ben Howland knew it better than the other. And, while it was infuriating and tragicomic to see him to use those expectations to excuse his recent underachievements, those comments underscore why he is no longer the coach in Westwood.
Now moving to the present - let's make something very clear if you can't tell already. Screw the national media. The biggest mistake anyone can make here is to actually take anything from national media columnists serious about the coaching candidates pertaining to UCLA basketball. These clowns have been wrong all along and we have laid out in detail why there is no reason to pay any attention to nonsense spouted by the blowhards in national media, who has no freaking clue about what is going on with UCLA basketball. If you are looking for one specific example, just take a look at this idiotic "report" from ESPN's Andy Katz from 10 years ago, who was breathlessly pimping fourth tier options such as Pat Douglass (UCI) and Brad Holland as realistic gets for UCLA to replace Steve Lavin. Needless to say no need to pay any attention to what Katz is spouting today. So seriously, stop paying attention to these national media morons and stick with analysis from reporters from sites such as BruinReportOnline.com and BruinSportsReport, who are closely connected to UCLA.
Now in terms of candidates the names that we have seen pop up in last 24-48 hours (and names we have been hearing in the background for last few months) are guys like Billy Donovan, Mart Gottfried, Rick Pitino, Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens etc. BTW I listed those guys in alphabetical order. So don't read anything into it. Speculation is going on everywhere in terms of who is in the top-3 and who isn't? Frankly, I am not as worried about it. If it's going to be someone from a cluster of Stevens, Pitino, Smart and Donovan, I will be ok with it. I certainly hope someone like Smart will be strongly pursued and considered by UCLA. If Guerrero ends up flailing around and ends up with an uninspiring choice such as Mark Gottfried, I am sure we will be willing to even give him a chance for 2-3 years, while intensifying the heat on Chianti Dan.
I really have no idea what to expect in terms of how this search will turn out. Perhaps the big time boosters who will play a part in funding the salary for next coach, will come together behind an elite choice and get it done. Or there is as good as chance we could see a bungled and embarrassing search process resulting in Guerrero "Mora-up" a hire by bringing in retread from the NBA. BTW speaking of Jim Mora, as has been said in detail here while Mora met the minimum expectations of last season and has done well on the recruiting trail, he still needs to follow up with a stronger season in his second year and then a BCS run in a third one, before that hire can be qualified as a "home run." So, I really hope we don't go that route and end up bringing in someone like Kurt Rambis.
Now let's go to some left over BruinBites:
- BruinSportsReport.com has a coaching hotboard up listing various tier of candidates. Don't agree with all the entrees there and don't think everyone in there will be a candidate (ie Tommy Amaker) but it's a decent primer.
- If you want to get a sense of how UCLA haters are trying to pre-emptively dictate what kind of losers Chianti should go after checkout CBSSportsLine.com, where Jeff Goodman (a Zona alum) and his buddy Garry Parrish has been on a crusade against UCLA basketball for more than a year (look them up in our archive). Goodman hilariously predicts Lorenzo Romar as UCLA's "realistic pick." Goodman doing helluva job showing off his Arizona education.
- Ramona Shellburne from ESPN has a typical shallow piece on Howland's departure in which she does nothing to really explain why Howland was no longer a viable long term option as UCLA's head coach. Instead her analysis on why Howland was let go? A lack of "buzz." Yes, that's it. If you want waste 3-5 minutes to skim through the article that tells you nothing. Don't know why I even gave her that link.
- During the weekend a student columnist from the Daily Bruin wrote a long column detailing all the problems UCLA basketball has experienced under Howland. Appreciate the effort. But the problem is less than a month ago the same kid wrote another column in which he specifically attacked this community for being too critical of Howland. I guess it's the Daily Bruin sports section after all. Let's just be nice and saying their history doesn't make them look very ... never mind. Whatever.
- UCLA released it's spring football practice schedule. Here are the details. Folks are planning some get togethers around Saturday practices. Check those planning activities here. Feel free to recommend that post so that folks can keep planning through the week.
- UCLA also released the latest football roster with updated info. For the hardcores feel free to go through it and post your takeaways.
- ICYMI Coach Steve Broussard tweeted some mockups of alternate unis over the weekend. JoeBruin15 blogged about it here. FWIW, I am not an uniform guru, but I don't totally hate what I am seeing in that picture. I liked the LA Nights and I will be ok with those alternate combos provided the shoulder stripes are back and that they are rolled out through strategic promotion, optimizing the excitement around the program. Hey, who am I kidding.
Coach Howland is going to have a presser at Pauley this afternoon at 1 pm PST/4 pm PST. If you are watching it make sure to share your notes, impressions etc. You know what to do.