We heard some of what you're about to read last week, but wanted to wait for some confirmation.
First things firsts, we've heard that former assistant coach Donny Daniels was basically "asked to leave" -- which explains why someone would leave UCLA for Gonzaga. I don't mean that to sound like a rip on the Zags, they've had a better record than us in last two years. But that aside, UCLA is still the higher profile program in the higher profile league and Daniels decision to head north was a bit of a head-scratcher.
My thought: I'm sort of neutral on this. From my vantage point, I always felt that if any assistant coach was going to stay, it would be Daniels. But my vantage point is a long way off and it's obscured at that, so I can't really say I'm shocked.
With Daniels leaving, Ben Howland has at the moment one assistant coaching spot to fill.
The candidate we've heard the most about is Phil Mathews. Mathews is currently an assistant coach at Nebraska, previously he was a head coach at San Francisco and his Southern California roots include time as head coach at Ventura College. One interesting detail about Mathews is that he's the father of Jordan Mathews a 2013 point guard prospect attending the same high school that produced Malcolm Lee. More to Follow:
There are three other names of potential assistant coaches being floated around out there.
In no particular order, they are Ross Land, Miles Simon and Ray Lopes.
Land was, until recently, was on the staff of UC Irvine. He lost his gig when Pat Douglas was not retained, Land was on Douglas' staff. The connection with Land is that he played for Howland at Northern Arizona University. The added attraction, at least as far as I'm concerned, is that he worked in the UC environment. With the oft-discussed standards UCLA imposes on student athletes trying to gain admission, it is sometimes beneficial to have someone who comes from a similar environment.
How Land is as a coach, I don't know. One thing in his favor, he knows what it's like to play for Howland. If there are any communication issues between staff and team, at least Land would be able to relate to both sides.
Anyone who followed UCLA basketball in the 90s will recall Simon as a player we loved to hate when he was starting for Arizona. We weren't particularly enamored of him when he was coaching there under Lute Olson either. But I really like the possibility of bringing him in. He knows the conference and the recruiting landscape in Southern California. He's also a Mater Dei kid, for what it's worth and that's a school that consistently produces D1 prospects. He has a rep for being a very smart guy and a hard worker. I would not be at all disappointed if Simon joined the staff.
Lopes is currently an assistant at Idaho, but he has a bit of a checkered past from his days as a head coach at Fresno State and an assistant in Oklahoma. One thing Lopes has going for him is that he and Howland go way back to their days as assistant coaches at UCSB. Howland certainly knows him and if he wants him on staff, I'm willing to accept Lopes. But I feel I speak for the rest of the frontpagers at Bruins Nation that recruiting violations and the like are not tolerated in the UCLA basketball universe and if Lopes were hired, we'll be watching, ready to report anything that's not on the up and up.
The other significant item we're hearing is that there may be more than one spot to fill on Coach Howland's staff.
There is nothing definitive to report, though we've heard that Scott Garson, the current assistant who was formerly the video coordinator, might shift over to Director of Basketball Operations. There are also rumors -- nothing solid, but it;'s out there,that Scott Duncan might be moving on as well, though we don't know if that would be a reassignment or what.
Taking all of that into account, UCLA will have as few as one new assistant coach next season and as many as three.
Final comment: One last thing we've heard is that recruiting and the ability to form solid bonds with the players is high on the priority list for any possible assistant coaches. Maybe this last is just wishful thinking on our part, but if true it's clearly an attempt to shore up recruiting and also to slow what to this point lately has been a succession of transfers and players leaving early for the NBA.