Following Coach Ben Howland's latest recruiting victory in landing elite point-forward Kyle Anderson, there is some understandable jubilation amongst fans of the program Coach built. Unfortunately, in order to fully close the book on this recruiting battle, we must revisit a rather unpleasant chapter within it: the potential betrayal of the program and UCLA by former players.
Some of you may recall bluebland's fanshot from a couple of weeks ago:
"It made a big impact," said Anderson who saw the Big East school with his mother, Suzanne, and two brothers, Duanne and Jamar. "It shows he gets guys NBA ready. Baron talked about Coach Lav, how he helped him get to where he is today."
That Baron would fail to mention that UCLA's current coach, based on the results we've seen, is a far better man to mold a young talent into NBA material indicates an outright betrayal of Coach's program. What is so disappointing is that Baron has always seemed proud of his Bruin heritage, and many words have been written during the NBA lockout about Baron's return to UCLA to complete his degree. That was, and is, an admirable feat, and we have applauded him for that. We have documented his eccentric personality and how many of his efforts outside of basketball are those that make us proud to count him among us. But make no mistake: All of that goodwill can go up in smoke by betraying the Bruin family like this.
Remember, this is a guy who famously leveled one of the harshest blows against the Lizard's coaching abilities:
"As reported by Bay Area blogger Geoff Lepper of the Contra Costa Times, former UCLA point guard Baron Davis looked into the rafters at Pauley Pavilion last Friday during the Golden State Warriors' morning shoot-around and said, "We should have a banner up there: the only team to make the tournament without a coach." . . .
Somewhere, surely, Steve Lavin's ears were burning."
I know that deep down, Baron knows the truth, and he knows that Kyle Anderson would have a far better shot at being a lasting NBA talent under Howland's tutelage than under the Lizard's. I can only hope that this is a temporary lapse in judgment and that we'll never find another reason to question Davis' loyalty.
Sadly though, this sordid affair doesn't end here.
Another former player, Earl Watson, has also been documented betraying Coach's program:
Steve Lavin was also one of only two head coaches at St. Anthony yesterday, along with Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard, to watch Anderson work out. Another former UCLA point guard, Earl Watson, accompanied Lavin.
This betrayal, though obviously irritating, is less surprising, as Watson has never given an indication that he recognizes how he and others were shortchanged in their development by Lavin's "coaching". Nor does he fly his Bruin colors as proudly as Davis has in the past. We've been supportive of Earl as a fellow Bruin and as part of the legacy that is Bruin basketball, but if this is how he wants to play it, then he can join Henry Bibby in the "dead to me" category.
Some of you may be saying, "What's the big deal, Ty? Surely players develop some level of loyalty to the coaches the play for as well as the school, right?" Well that may be true, but at a school with the legacy and tradition that UCLA has, I believe that people that play here have an additional responsibility to ensure that that legacy remains just as attractive and appealing to future generations of recruits, and a responsibility to uphold one of Coach's greatest virtues: loyalty. That means that at the absolute worst, I expect at least an equivalent sales pitch for the greatest collegiate basketball program in the country.
It's not too late for redemption, but we, the Bruin family, do notice these things, especially when it impacts Coach's program. If Baron, Earl, or any other former players expect any sort of loyalty or support from the Bruin family, it's only right that they treat UCLA Basketball with the respect it deserves, especially against a fraud like the Lizard of Westwood.