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Builder of the Decade

From's Grant Wahl:

[T]ake a bow, Ben Howland. Thanks in part to this week's AP Poll, which ranks the Bruins a deserved No. 1, a critical mass of Howland appreciation is starting to roll in, not least from 'Bag readers. To wit:

Am I the only one who thinks Ben Howland is the best coach in college hoops these days? That's an East Coast team out there on the left coast.
-- Tom Tuchscher,  New York City

This week's AP rankings have UCLA and Pitt at 1-2. How do you think that makes Ben Howland feel? Considering that neither of these programs was at an elite level when Howland took over, can we go ahead and name him Coach of the Decade? Are there any historical parallels for this sort of achievement?
-- Ted Schroeder, Pittsburgh

Great question, Ted. The 'Bag took an hour to go through the record book and couldn't find a single other instance in the past 30 years (and, for all we know, in the history) of the AP Poll in which the top two teams were programs that had been built (or re-built) in succession by the same coach. (That said, let's give some credit to Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon for continuing the rise started by Howland.) I won't go so far as to give Howland the Coach of the Decade award yet -- it would help to win a national title -- but Builder of the Decade (so far) certainly seems appropriate.

Howland's template is clear: His teams defend like demons, work their butts off for rebounds and play smart, hard-nosed basketball on the offensive end. Combine those gritty "East Coast" traits with the "West Coast" offensive flair Howland has in his main recruiting zone, and you have the ingredients for success -- lots of it. What's more, players just seem to get better under Howland. Due in large part to Howland's track record, many of us thought there would be little drop-off when Darren Collison replaced Jordan Farmar at the point, and sure enough, Collison won the MVP in Maui. If all this sounds like the 'Bag has a man-crush on Howland, well, we do.
Well I will come out and say it. I have a giant man-crush on Coach Howland. And Mrs. N knows it. I worship this guy. And judging from what I am reading and sensing pretty obvious the entire Bruins Nation has a man-crush on Coach Howland and his Ben Ball warriors.

These are good times for Bruin basketball. Soak it up. We are just starting and this is going to be a wonderful, exhillirating, and fun ride. Don't worry about the National Championship. It (or they) will come.

For now though just enjoy the incredible job this man has done in reviving the glory which is Bruin basketball. Just soak it up.

We love you Coach Howland.

Thank you again for giving us some much needed relief from the Thinker's football program.