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Howland's Words (Of Contrition & Frustration) Are Meaningless

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As expected reading through the game articles today I found more of Ben Howland's meaningless coach speak. It was ok to digest them when earlier in the season I could dismiss certain results as aberration. It was ok to look away hoping somehow that Howland would readjust and recalibrate and coach up his current roster (which he is responsible for assembling) to fit the available talent.

Yet at the halfway point of this season it has become clear that the UCLA basketball team is going nowhere. It hasn't improved through the season and is going through the same maddening lather, rinse, and repeat formula that hasn't worked game after game. Howland's words at this point has no traction and it increasingly appears that we have a head coach who at least at this snap shot of time appears to be all by himself in an island being tuned out by his players and a community that wants to support him in every reasonable way possible.

I'd like to support Ben Howland, however I just can't be enthusiastic and supportive of what has taken place this season, which seems to be a carry over of number of disturbing tendencies from last. I voted "unsure" in our poll.  I am hoping that Howland will make definitive adjustments to this current season to set the foundation for next year and get this program back to playing Ben Ball. If he doesn't, I will be heading into next season with a deep sense of skepticism and shaky confidence in our current head coach (I don't have any hope for rest of this one).More after the jump.

Let's get couple of toplines out of the way:

  • Yesterday's Trojan conquest was the Southern Cal's biggest win ever (EVER) at Pauley (it could have been lot worse, except Mike Gerrity actually showed mercy by running out the shot clock during second half).
  • Yesterday's Bruin loss was UCLA's worst loss to Southern Cal in 65 years.

Now in terms of game numbers some ugly details from a very giddy Trojan Times game report (emphasis added):

USC had a 37-22 rebounding edge. UCLA had only five assists. USC shot 52%. UCLA shot 33%.

To paraphrase Howland, the Bruins didn't play man-to-man well, or zone. They didn't block out on rebounds and they turned the ball over. And the offense . . . well, Howland said, "We struggled to score. We couldn't score."

Uh coach, your clowns couldn't defend either. The scrubs in Bruin uniform and played like bunch of chumps on the defensive end out of the gate. Then, what else can you expect coach when you keep sticking with a scrub like Ragovic who has never showed any interest of playing any modicum of credible defense. Howland said after the game:

"I'm embarrassed for our team," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "I feel embarrassed for the program, for the former players and coaches. That's all you can say, it was embarrassing."

Basically, while the Trojans (11-6 overall, 3-2 in Pacific 10 Conference play) have self-imposed sanctions that prevent them from participating in the NCAA tournament, the Bruins (7-10, 2-3) are playing like they don't belong in the postseason.

Actually I am embarrassed for Howland. I am embarrassed that Howland is so stubborn and delusional that he keeps insisting his team come out and play man-to-man to start the game when it was obvious to rest of the world, that our scrubs were not capable of staying infront of their man. Then I am embarrassed to read this kind of garbage assessment from Howland on his Matt Barkeley:

Howland was concerned with Dragovic's shot selection, as he took a number of fadeaway, tilting 3-pointers that clanked hard off the rim.

"It was very disappointing," Howland said. "He took some bad shots today, and he has to understand that this is the result when you don't wait for it. They were forcing him to try to put the ball on the floor, and that's not his strength."

Coach it took you this long to get disappointed. Moreover, despite your "disappointment" you stuck with that clown for 17 minutes in the first half (despite being scoreless and usual sieve on the defensive side) and then brought him back out on the court to start he second half. Way to make adjustments and set example for accountability coach.

If anyone thinks Howland's preferential treatment of Nikola Dragovic is not having a bad impact on this team not just for the short term but also in the long term, is living in a world of delusion (in the same way Dorrelistas did over the years). I specifically charted Brendan Lane yesterday. He got only 2 minutes (2 minutes) in the first half. First time he came in for a minute and then got hooked by Howland almost immediately. Next time he came in he was matched up against Marcus Johnson. At least Lane made an effort to D up and foul him not to give up the shot but still got pulled. He didn't see the court again until it was garbage. There was of course no sign of Mike Moser. Meanwhile, we had Dragovic jacking up one ugly shot after another and usual showing no interest whatsoever in playing defense.

When players like Lane and Moser see Howland letting Dragovic skate freely without any sense of accountability, what motivation do they have to work hard and develop under this coach. Moreover, at this point we will not accept youth and inexperience as an excuse next season, if we struggle with Lane and Moser for not being experienced enough because all the minutes had to be allocated to these years' scrubs from the senior class.

Ben Howland blew this season a while ago. He did it last year when he went for the easy offense of Shipp and Holiday while it was Malcolm Lee playing modicum of defense on court. I will go as far as to speculate that Howland' nonsensical rotation last season had an impact on disheartening players like Lee who look unprepared and unmotivated this season. From what I see on the court, I am seeing a basketball team which is not in tune with its head coach, and I am seeing a head coach who is failing miserably to motivate this team.

Something is not right with the picture. We are not saying that UCLA needs to get rid of Howland. However, what we are saying is that it is time for Howland to do some serious self-reflection and offer up more than words. The words after his press conference are meaningless considering he goes back to his same non-working formula game after game. It was time for him to shake up the core a while ago when his team humiliated the four letters infront of the very Icon who made the four letters mean something (Mississippi State). It appears that Howland barely made any adjustments since then and the team still is producing same disheartening results.

I don't care much for the Washington game. I am not going to care much even if we win based on fool's gold shooting from scrubs like Dragovic. I want a UCLA basketball team that takes pride in fundamentals and takes pride in playing defense. For that to happen Ben Howland needs to shake up the core now and start with the guys who are going to form the foundation for next season. Until then Ben Howland's words are meaningless and he is sadly losing the vast reservoir of credibility he built up over the years.