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Finally, a coach with confidence and desire

Got this via email. Written by a great Bruin fan who goes by the name "BruinBlue." Agree with everything he says here. Note which current head coach he didn't mention in this post. GO BRUINS. -N

UPDATED - I stand corrected. BB did mention the glorious Sun Bowl! -N

The best thing in a disappointing and frustrating night was watching and listening to Ben Howland and Kerry Keating after the game. The theme was that our goal is to get back to the Final Four next year and win it. How long have we waited for a coach in a major sport to have that drive for absolute success, and not be afraid to express it?

We had Lavin who cried after his Elite Eight run, beating Charleston Southern, Xavier and Iowa State; acting as if he had lost in the last stride of the Olympic Marathon; then telling the world after each Sweet Sixteen loss what a successful season it had been for UCLA. We had Harrick defending his #1-seeded team's humiliation in the Regional Final by saying, "Elite Eight, not too shabby." We had Donahue exulting in a 6-3 win over a 6-5 team in the Sun Bowl; Dorrell acting as if a win over Northwestern in a third-tier Bowl was a fabulous accomplishment. Coach after coach telling us that winning a national title "is not a reasonable goal at UCLA," blaming the fans for unreasonable expectations, lamenting the "pathology" of the program. And now one who could easily have said something like, "People might not realize what an accomplishment it is to play in an NCAA Final. There are many coaches and programs out there which never have. What a fabulous season for us." Instead, the first thing he says, after stating how proud he is of his players, is that our goal is "to get back here and win it." Talk about setting your own bar high, and not being so afraid to fail, or so comfortable, that you are content to rest on your current limited achievements.

And as an alumnus and lifetime fan, like so many of us here, the best solace for a disappointment is the hope of next year, and the year after that--it's what fans live for, after all. And when you have a coach who in some sense speaks to all of us supporters and tells us that he, in contrast to the last half-dozen coaches in the major sports here, essentially has the same expectations for the program as we do, it's a thrilling thing.

I don't quite know how the pattern of lowered expectations started here. A number of L.A. writers, many of whom had no real interest in UCLA sports, pushed the concept that fans and alumni here were so spoiled, and didn't have reasonable goals for the programs. Of course, these were people who quite cheerfully returned to covering the NBA or NFL or MLB, the minute one of our seasons was over; not like the writers in cities which live for their college sports, and analyze and dissect and speculate throughout the long offseasons. And then we had coaches who didn't want to be challenged; who innately sensed their own mediocrity; and who treated each season as almost a chore to get through so that they could cash their paychecks and relax in the summer. There is nothing more insulting and sickening than to have a so-so season, or to be mired in just-above-mediocrity status, and have the coach who's being paid half a million dollars or more, tell you and everyone else that this is really great, and that anyone who isn't satisfied is unreasonable and unrealistic. And this in essence has been UCLA sports for the last 25 years.

The only recent coaches at UCLA who have set the high standards have been those who are confident in their own ability, and have a burning desire to succeed. Those include Prothro, Vermeil and Brown. Unfortunately, we lost all of them to the pros--another reason for us losing heart, and deciding to hire cheerful mediocrities who would stay. And now we finally have another coach who not only has the ability to win championships, but who is dissatisfied unless he does. After a season of vastly exceeded expectations, Coach Howland doesn't act as if we should be ever grateful for what he and the team has accomplished; he tells us that we can look forward to doing even better. And that's why, on a day when it would be so easy to feel drained and disappointed, we should actually feel very hopeful and gratified as well.