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Is Ben Howland Cooking Up Another Toxic UCLA Basketball Season FAIL?

Ben Howland is responsible for the toxic atmosphere around UCLA program which appears to be heading for another FAIL season in 2011-12 (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
Ben Howland is responsible for the toxic atmosphere around UCLA program which appears to be heading for another FAIL season in 2011-12 (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The 0-3 Bruins (we don't really care for a "win" over a D-2 program) are going to take on Michigan Wolverines for the consolation, third place game this evening in Hawaii (4:30 pm PST). Normally I'd get really excited about this matchup against my all around second favorite college program. I'd also get excited if this was a case of old school Ben Howland taking on a John Beilein led Wolverines team. That stuff was fun to discuss and go over in those long gone glory days of Ben Ball warriors.

Times are ... uhm ... a little different now on BruinsNation. After three games against D-1 teams this season, it is not as much about scouting our opponents, it is more about whether the head coach of our basketball program has a grip on reality. It is increasingly becoming clear that Howland's post game comments about what he should have done or could have done, are filled with the same BS as we are now used to hearing from Rick Neuheisel's pressers.

For all the talk about UCLA trying out different approaches including using zone defense with its slow, unathletic and out of shape forwards, we haven't seen much of it in Hawaii. More alarmlingly though while it is becoming clear what lineup the Bruins need to use make UCLA a credible program from the West coast this season, Howland remains stuck in his stubborn world devoid of reality. From the LA Times today:

Howland said his best lineup in the game was Anderson, Lamb, David and Travis Wear and Reeves Nelson, the junior forward who came off the bench to collect 12 points, five rebounds and two steals. The Wear twins combined for six points on two-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds.

I have not seen any specific quotes from Howland yet on that comment. However, the game mins breakdown from yesterday certainly confirms Howland's mindset:

  • 63 minutes combined for the Wear Twins who produced 6 points, 6 rebounds and 3 turnovers
  • 5 total minutes for Norman Powell and Anthony Stover

So if Howland really believes that having the Twins on the floor at the same time gives him the best chance to win, then this season is headed towards being another catastrophic season ala 2009-10, when he completely wrecked this program by playing favorites with the Nikola Dragovic. Howland's other on the record comment in the AP wire was just as absurd.

From the AP wire:

"I was really happy the way the guys fought back in the second half," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We had it down to five ... and I think we ran out of gas."

Did anyone point to Howland that our players ran out of gas because he stuck with the same 5 players (mentioned above) without bothering to give any minutes to Powell, Stover and Brendan Lane?

Oh and BTW I have not even brought up Zeek Jones yet. After these past few games it's pretty clear now that he has no business being our starting point guard. Too bad for UCLA fans though Howland apparently didn't come to this realization until Zeek had gotten himself into foul trouble, which followed one of the most selfish displays I have ever seen come out of a Bruin "point guard." The fact is Jones should have never  been our starting guard. He had some gutty moments last year but he has always been less than adequate when it comes to defense and his shoot-first mindset was never a fit for "Ben Ball." I don't trust Howland at this point to take his word that he will increase Jerime's mins at the expense of Jones.

Meanwhile, speaking of Powell, what Howland did to him was flat out insulting and uncalled for. If he was not going to punish Powell for taking one bad 3 point shot (never mind Wears kept making bad basketball decisions all freaking game long), by bringing him in 30 seconds left in the game, then why should Powell bother trying?

This is second time in last three games Howland has made a jerk move with his players as he screwed around with Lane by bringing him in for 26 seconds in each half against MTSU. I have heard from few folks now how furious Lane's parents are with Howland and how Howland has not given them any rhyme or reason for jerking around their son for last two plus years.

Shabazz Muhammad's Dad was at the game last night. If I were him, I'd take note of the toxic chemistry that is engulfing Howland's program. I'd take note of how unfairly Howland treats his players and how it has destroyed the foundation of the very program he rebuilt in his early years at UCLA.  What he has done to Lane and to Powell (to date) is not acceptable.

At this point, no one is going to blame Powell if he decides to pack up like Mike Moser, Chace Stanback and number of others players who have bailed from Westwood to get out of Howland's program. It is telling now why even a great kid like Malcolm Lee rather hang around in his apartment during a lockout season than be part of Howland's mess.

I will always be grateful to Howland for making those Final-4 runs. However, going to three Final-4s do not make him untouchable. He got a mulligan because of those Final-4's when he crashed this program during the "Season of Ragovic" two years ago. If he sticks with his same tired favoritism shtick and crashes this program with a non-tourney season, his time will be up at UCLA.

No we are not calling for a new coach. Not yet. However, as we made it clear the trust is no longer there and what we have seen to date is not acceptable. If Ben Howland wants to keep coaching in Westwood, he'd better make sure he doesn't turn this into a toxic "Season of Wears."