I don't really care about the revisiting the details from last night's expected debacle all over again. I do want to start this week picking up on a big picture theme about Ben Howland in a period of less than two years has gone from a life-time Bruin coach to someone whose seat is warm.
Let's make this clear. This season is over. I don't really care what comes out of the mouths of Howland and his players (we will LOL at the words if they continue to serve up the same listless nonsense), if the Bruins do not come back next season to make a (legitimate) run at the conference title with 20+ season, Howland's seat is going to get warmer. Howland will have to follow-up next season with a huge one in 2011-12 with retention Tyler Honeycutt.
The pressure is going to be immense and it is going to come more intensely not from us, but from all the big time donors who have been hit up and who will be approached for an extremely controversial Pauley renovation project. It is one thing to deal with pesky bloggers' criticisms, it is a whole another beast when Morgan Center will have to deal with big money donors who will not be in the mood to shell out bucks for crappy work product.
Meanwhile, I want to make another point. I have seen number of commenters who have been desperately trying to absolve Howland from this current mess by throwing the freshmen class of 2008 under the bus. Not so fast people. That was not the only recruiting class Howland has struck out with in his 7 years in Westwood.
Let's revisit a rather prescient post Bellerophon in which he laid out how Ben Howland's recruiting has killed the UCLA basketball program. Class of 2008 is not the only bust on Ben Howland's resume. Here are once again the results of three recruiting classes from 06 to 08:
Russell Westbrook: Warrior
Nikola Dragovic: Super Scrub
James Keefe: Overrated Scrub
Kevin Love: Warrior, but one-and-done
Chace Stanback: Scrub - Transfer
J'mison Morgan: Scrub
Malcolm Lee: Possible Warrior
Jrue Holiday: Overrated Scrub and one-and-done
Jerime Andersen: Clueless Scrub
Drew Gordon: Psycho Scrub - Transfer
So essentially this year's disaster is a result of cratering of three straight recruiting classes. There is no other way to sugarcoat it.
Ben Howland is 100 percent accountable for this disaster. Right now it is not clear whether he can guide us out of it. From this year's class Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt' s career look promising but we have no idea how long we can hang on to Honeycutt. While Lane and Moser had tough moments last night, it is not unreasonable considering they have not been used in a meaningful way the entire season. In Moser's case Howland played him for a grand total of 2 minutes in previous 14 outings, while Lane was used for a total of 5 minutes in previous 6 games. So if they looked a little unprepared and tentative that is on Ben Howland.
Now while it does not look good for Ben Howland, he is our best shot to get it together in next 2 years. People can whine all they want for us being too hard on him, but the fact of the matter is because of the good-will he built up in recent years, we are not demanding his immediate firing from Westwood. If this was any other coach, the scenario would be different. If Jim Harrick ever put together this kind of season in Westwood, he would have been shown the door on the spot. Heck, Harrick would probably would have gotten canned if Tyus Edney hadn't gone coast-to-coast.
In retrospect, it looks like Harrick actually did a better job of building a program with stronger foundation, considering even a poser like Steve Lavin was able to live off his recruits and program reputation parlaying into more influx of talents and cheap Steve-16 runs.
Going back to the present, we will reiterate one more time that now Howland needs to position this program for next year. It will be inexcusable of Brendan Lane and Mike Moser look tentative because of lack of game experience when next season starts. It will be inexcusable if Howland doesn't reward someone like Mustafa Abdul-Hamid with more game minutes (and certainly more than Jerime Anderson) so that he is even more prepared to make contributions as a role player and leader off the bench next season. It will be inexcusable if Howland and his staff waste their time during these remaining few weeks chasing after recruits who are not serious about UCLA while missing out more Southland talents such as Derrick Williams and Reggie Moore.
In a span of less than two years Ben Howland has completely ravaged the UCLA program into an unrecognizable mess.He is responsible for it. It's a fact and if people are not comfortable with that they better get used to it because we are going to be pointing this out a lot in the coming days, months and years.
Due to the incredible success he experienced early after rebuilding this program from another unrecognizable mess, Howland deserves the opportunity to rebuild it again within period of next two years. If he fails to get it done, the Bruins will be better off looking at another direction. The seat is warm now. Tick, tock, the pressure is on.