Brian Dohn has a great article today on how Ben Howland has been methodically rebuilding the UCLA basketball program. Its not like Howland is some inexperienced head coach who had never coached as a HC in any other D-1 program, he has a track record of building a program from the ground up:
Howland's track record demanded it.
Howland's reputation as a builder of programs, or a rebuilder in UCLA's case, comes with the delicious appetizer the program will soar in his third season.
Such was the case a decade ago at Northern Arizona, then at Pittsburgh, and now with UCLA, which enters today's game at No. 21 Washington ranked 13th in the nation, and atop the Pac-10. The Bruins are 20-4, 10-2 in the league.
"Usually when you're taking over a program, it's very rare that you're Bruce Weber and you walk into (Illinois) and it's fully loaded, or you're Roy Williams (at North Carolina) and it's fully loaded," Howland said. "Typically, you go in and you're starting over. That's in a general sense."
Howland has no 20-win seasons and is a combined 77-93 in his first two seasons at each school. But from the third year on, Howland is 6 for 6 in delivering 20-win seasons and is 140-38 overall.
"It's everything coming together," UCLA fifth-year senior Cedric Bozeman said. "It takes a little time, but once you step back, you understand it, and it works. It's everything. Players have been in the system for two years, I've been in it for three years, and the guys that now come in just follow the guys ahead of them."
"It's just building a program," Howland said. "Any time you take over a program, usually it's a losing team. So you're building."
In each case, Howland's first year was basically a wash, mostly because the recruiting season is over by the time he was hired.
The second year, Howland began to fill scholarships with players that fit his targeted style. Within two months of landing the UCLA gig, Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar, currently UCLA's two leading scorers, gave Howland oral commitments.
By the third year, the program gets rolling.
Again - a great article from Dohn - probably the only writer in LA's traditional media who truly gets it. Now of course we have a huge basketball game today. And as usually we are going to look to our friends over at BBR for the game preview. Bruins of course lost to the Huskies at Pauley, however in that game Bruins were missing their defensive leader - and no I am not talking about Arron. Check this out:
"He means everything to this team," said Afflalo. "He's our leader, our defensive stopper. He's so valuable.''
In this game, Bozeman will be looked upon by his teammates to help steady the team on offense from his point-forward spot and to take the assignment of guarding Washington's Bobby Jones.
Jones averages 11.1 points a game and scored a key late basket off a rebound in the previous match-up. He is a streaky shooter, yet he can take over games for the Huskies when he gets hot.
But Bozeman, coupled with Afflalo, gives the Bruins an advantage of two outstanding defensive players who can shut down an opponent's best scorer. An advantage the Bruins did not have in the previous game against Washington.
Now brace yourself when you are watching this afternoon's game. Guess who is going to calling today's game? None other than ESPN's resident monkey - Steve Lavin. Yes Lavin is going to be in Seattle this afternoon calling the game and for our player's sake - hope Howland doesn't let the dirty SOB anywhere near our bench. But in case you don't have the TV on mute here are some of the nonsense that may be coming out of the monkey's mouth (courtesy of JD at BruinHoopScoop):
* "I was lucky to learn under one of the great masters of coaching, Gene Keady"
* "I always thought it was important to make sure we were playing our best ball at the end of the year. You don't want to peak too early."
* "At UCLA they have high expectations. They don't hang banners for going to the Final Four."
* "The only concern I have with the Bruins is that they haven't faced difficult competition in their non-conference schedule. I always liked to schedule several tough out-of-conference opponents."
* "This Bruin team has faced a lot of adversity with injuries, and I've always thought a team with good character learns to deal with adversity. My teams always came back from adversity, like the Guiness book of records loss against Stanford and getting booed off our home court against Kansas."
* "Fey, Hollins, and Bozeman are good players."
* And if he's feeling sassy, he will mention how he lost his job at UCLA because of alumni playing golf with the chancellor.