I will begin with a defense of Howland. Today there is a story about the "castaways", five players kicked off from various Pac-12 teams this year that could make a good enough team to beat many other Pac-12 teams this year. Howland is not alone in facing transfers and dismissals. And it would be unfair to entirely blame him as the problem/issue is much bigger than his team.
But where there is a lot of smoke, there is some fire. Thus let's discuss the Ben Howland UCLA all transfer team:
Oh, and there's Bobo Morgan on the bench.
The Epic Fail
Mike Moser is now a leader for a very good UNLV team and the #5 rebounder in the nation. But Mike was never given a chance for the 2009-10 UCLA team. Mike Moser played a measly 70 minutes in his first year at UCLA. His 70 minutes were the fewest by any scholarship player that year. This was a terrible UCLA team that started 5 different players at center, had one big dismissed, one big had a career ending injury and another big played on a gimpy ankle. Yet Moser did not play.
But wait it gets worse: in the few minutes Moser did play he was playing small forward. Most of the few shots he did take were from downtown. So CBH had one of the nation's future best rebounders tagged as an outside shooter playing on the perimeter.
But I have not said the worst part. So who played over Moser on this 14-18 team? Senior Nikola Dragovic. This is not Moser like was waiting behind LRMAM. Dragovic was a terrible player on a terrible team.
So why did CBH play Dragovic over Moser? First of all, CBH seemingly made his first mistake in trying to make Moser a SF instead of a PF. Second, my best guess is that Dragovic was a senior, something that does not happen often these days. But shouldn't you at some point play for the future? And shouldn’t the play of the player in front matter? It seemed like Dragovic did everything humanly possible to be benched for a walk on, let alone a talented kid.
Last, Moser was by all accounts a good kid and CBH did not want him to go. Epic fail.
Not Even a Minute
Matt Carlino was recruited by UCLA very late in the process as a PG. It was a strange recruitment. He graduated from high school a year early to come to UCLA and decommitted from Indiana. The press release on his commitment specifically mentioned that he came to UCLA to be a PG. He wanted to come to PG U.
But by all accounts he never got even a shot to play PG. Which is strange when you think about it. This was not 2005-06 with two future pro point guards in JF and DC. This was a team which Lazeric Jones, a JC transfer, was going to be the starting PG. But even more curious was CBH's decision to give the backup job to Jerime Anderson.
The year before Jerime Anderson had played his way out of the job when UCLA did not have a backup. I would argue that Jerime was the worst player on the 2009-10 team who had allegedly spent most of his time partying with Bobo and had even been suspended for missing a rehab session. Jerime made no commitment to defense and was a big reason we went zone. Why the heck in this context did Carlino not even get a chance to be a backup PG?
Now to his credit Jerime did play defense that year. Jerime did play better. But you look at Jerime today and you see a guy who is playing close to his potential. He is a PG who can’t create his own shot, is prone to a bonehead mistake or two a game, and does not deal well with ball pressure, which is why the Oregon teams pressed us.
Meanwhile Matt Carlino is now the starting PG for a BYU team that is 17-5. His stat line across the board is better than Anderson’s in every offensive category and even rebounding. Carlino has had a double digit assist game, something Anderson has not done for his career. Carlino is not a great athlete who is going to be a great defender but neither is Anderson.
Carlino had a concussion in practice for UCLA but he left after Howland wouldn't play him in UCLA’s worst loss of the 2010-11 season, at home against Montana. In that game Jones fouled out and Anderson played poorly. We were desperate for three point shooting and still Carlino did not play a minute. CBH admitted afterwards that he should have played Carlino. But Carlino knew at that point, he was not going to get a shot to play and even less of a chance to play PG.
One last thing. A PG needs to deal with pressure and Carlino can. He is billed as replacing Jimmer Fredette at BYU, only the best player in BYU history. So while Anderson arguably cost us games this year when he missed a game after stealing a laptop, missed a game winning wide open three against Stanford, and made the foul of a three point shooter against Oregon that keyed their run; Carlino as a freshman is thriving under the pressure of replacing a legend.
Mistake number two.
The Head Cases
Although I listed Reeves Nelson as a small forward I realize he is a power forward. But that brings up an interesting point. Reeves is better suited to play the wing on defense than David Wear, who CBH again last week put out as a small forward. This is really a side point.
Drew Gordon and Reeves Nelson are fierce competitors and big talents. While some doubted Reeves' abilities, he proved he was a very good college player earning all Pac-10 honors last year. Drew Gordon is a even better talent. Both are messed up in the head.
Drew Gordon left UCLA because he wanted to run more. Really, you came to play for CBH because you wanted to play fast break running basketball? Gordon’s new team started last year 8-1 before Gordon became eligible. After Gordon was added to the team their record was 14-12. Now some of this was tougher competition but there were reports of Gordon causing some issues.
Of course too much has already been written here about Reeves. Reeves parents backed his dismissal and only criticized CBH for not being stricter sooner. Some times what makes an athlete really good makes them a bit crazy. No one worked out harder in the off season than Reeves. Reeves does not need a coach to motivate him to go to the gym and be told to practice. But Reeves does not work well with others.
But a great coach has to be able to deal with this problem talents and at the same time be careful not to recruit too many of them. I wrote about this earlier in a comment about Sidney Wicks.
So, maybe losing Reeves or Gordon is understandable. But having a Reeves and Gordon on the same team was a scary combination. CBH made a mistake, if not two, the only question is which and when (recruiting, not disciplining soon enough).
Chance Stanback is the leading scorer on the #15 team in the nation and he is doing it all. Hitting from 3 at 47% clip, free throws at 84%, and FG at 50%. He is a good player who left after the 2007-08 season because he did not get much playing time. During UCLA’s 2007-08 campaign he played in 25 of 39 games for a total of 144 minutes.
But unlike Moser, this was a very good team that had it sights on a national title from day one. You look at the players ahead of him and it is hard to imagine getting him many minutes. Shoot, LMR, a former starting Final Four center, was a backup only getting 13 minutes a game.
Ironically Stanback may have left because he felt he may never have been good enough to crack a UCLA lineup. I think CBH deserves a pass on Stanback’s transfer. But I will add how could he find a 144 minutes for Stanback on that loaded team but only 70 for Moser on the 2009-10 disaster?
Today this is relevant to Norman Powell and maybe Anthony Stover. Neither are head cases nor playing for a team making a run at a title. Powell has more athletic ability than anyone on this list except maybe Moser. Yet, I wonder if De’End was not hurt/transferring would Powell be playing even less now or Moser like minutes?
And that just it. The fact the UCLA all transfer team happen is not all CBH’s fault, the fact that it would likely beat his current team is.