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Ben Stellar

Are you ready for some basketball?

LA Times finally gets on the Ben Howland bandwagon. About freaking time. At least it's not Bill Plaschke writing about what we already knew - we have the best coach in college basketball reigning in Westwood:

He never saw a kid he didn't think he could successfully recruit, never saw a bad call he wouldn't ferociously dispute. He never saw an offense he didn't think he could frustrate, never saw a defense he didn't think he could dominate.

There is no room for doubt in UCLA basketball Coach Ben Howland's world. There are absolutes.

Defense absolutely wins games. Toughness is absolutely necessary in his supposedly non-contact sport. Rebounding is absolutely essential.

And losing focus is absolutely forbidden.


The Bruins' success has been based on a foundation of solid defense. No surprise. It's telling that Howland was twice chosen Weber State's most valuable defensive player because defense has been his mantra throughout his coaching career.

"Winning starts with defense, whatever sport you are talking about," Howland said. "Michael Jordan was the greatest defensive player in NBA history at his position. The great Laker teams, whether under Phil Jackson or Pat Riley, started with defense. I loved guys like Michael Cooper and Dennis Johnson, who played great defense."

And we have no complaints about Howland's absolute focus on defense even though some wankers in the traditional media are having hard time making sense with any of it.  

It is easy to get so totally behind a coach who has brought so much intensity, passion, and focus in a program without filling up the press conferences with hot air and tired sports clichés. In three years Howland delivered the goods - tangible evidence of true progress and has all of his kids and incoming recruits believing in his basketball philosophy in Westwood. Tonight starts another chapter. It is going to be hard. As Dohn notes in his report today, this Pac-10 tournament thing may place a physical toll on all of our marquee players. But they are ready. They have been training for this the whole season.

Now keep in mind as excited as we all are about this program we should still keep our expectations in check. We can't forget the fact that what Howland has done with this roster led by sophomores and freshmen (and Ced) without two starters is simply astonishing. We have overachieved by winning the Pac-10. And we may be brought down to earth in next two weeks by fluke games on the court. But as the Times article notes - it is pretty clear - something very special is going on with UCLA basketball under Coach Howland in Westwood. We are blessed to have Howland. GO BRUINS.