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The Heir Apparent

I wanted to share with you an article I read during my train ride to NYC Saturday morning, which basically put me at ease going into the Kansas game. It was an article written by Marc Craig of Washington Post, who used an incident from Friday's press conference (which was the same incident Dodd spent so much time whining about writing probably the most (deliberately?) misleading article concerning UCLA basketball since Wetzel's hack job from last year), to point out how little things mean so much to Coach Howland:

Howland likes his news conferences the way he likes his defenses: executed properly.

"I don't know if you can tell this, but I am a detail-oriented guy," Howland said, answering a question about his multiple interruptions during the 30-minute session. "I like to have the smallest details, and that's the difference between winning and losing. That's the difference between being good and great, successful and not successful."

The Bruins' success during the tournament has hinged on the execution of a suffocating man-to-man defense because the coach, in a way, has learned to control fate. The Bruins have thrived on defense by being in the right place at the right time.

Players say the style requires a level of precision that comes only by paying attention to the smallest things. And when that standard isn't met, Howland makes sure his team knows it.
And what do our players think about the best coach to lead a major UCLA sports program since the days of Coach Wooden? From the same article (emphasis mine):
At Bruins practices, players say it's not uncommon to run plays over and over again, until it is completed with precision.

"Just when we're doing walk-throughs, he wants everybody to be in the precise spots," Bruins sophomore Josh Shipp said. "I mean, we try to shortcut things just to save time. He stops us and points it out and says we need get in the right spots. That's how precise it is."

Earlier this season, when Mbah a Moute showed up at a practice wearing a sleeve that covered a forearm, Howland demanded he remove it.

"If you're not going to wear it during the game, there's no point in wearing it in practice," Howland said. [...]

Howland's obsessions with details have caused clashes between the coach and his players in the past. But while UCLA players admit that they had to learn to adjust to the hands-on approach, they understand the purpose.

"We're getting better as a team and individually we're getting better," Collison said.
Hmmm ...  call me crazy.  But when I read that piece the story immediately came to my mind was about how Coach Wooden spent practice time teaching his players how they should wear their socks and tie their shoelaces.

Coach Howland in just four short and magical years has established himself as the best basketball coach in America. While all the pundits and gasbags were busy sucking the Popsicles of coaches from the ACC, SEC, Big-10 and other over hyped conferences, leading glamour teams stuffed with McDonalds All Americans, all Coach Howland did was to put together another 30 win season, featuring a conference championship and a second straight run to Final-4, despite losing 3 starters to the NBA. Incredible really. No other way to describe what Coach Howland has done with our program this season, and the kind of foundation he has built at this magical place, positioning itself to relive some of the unsurpassed glory and tradition, established under the greatest teacher ever to coach this game.

The best part about all this? Coach Howland bleeds blue and gold. For example, just check out this give and take wrt to basketball tradition and UCLA following Saturday night's game:

You think he "gets it"? You think he understands what UCLA basketball means to us? That exchange is just about as classic clip we have seen exemplifying why we love this guy representing Coach Wooden's program.

And then there was Coach Howland soaking it all in leading the Bruin Nation assembled at HP into a UCLA 8 (thunder clap):

I will never get tired of writing Thank God for Ben Howland.

I don't think I can put into words how incredibly lucky and blessed I feel to have this guy leading our basketball program. I sure hope DG has already done his homework and worked out the details on pay raise and contract extensions for Coach Wooden's ultimate heir apparent.

Once again UCLA has the best basketball coach in America leading the greatest basketball program of all time. We need to make sure it stays that way until Coach Howland retires from Westwood as one of the greatest teachers to ever coach this game. We cannot let the heir apparent go anywhere else.