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UCLA vs. WSU: Howland Has a Nice Night’s Sleep But The UCLA Nightmare is Not Over

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 01:  Head coach Ben Howland of the UCLA Bruins had a good night as the players played like he teaches them for one night.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 01: Head coach Ben Howland of the UCLA Bruins had a good night as the players played like he teaches them for one night. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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In an interview on Bruin Report Online, UCLA Coach Ben Howland comments after the WSU victory last night:

"My dream job is to coach UCLA."

Obviously that dream has turned into a nightmare in part because of the SI article. An article that increasingly seems to be based on exaggerated statements and now has the bad guy of the piece, Reeves Nelson, denying most of it. Of course, Reeves complaints ring a bit hollow. Reeves is a bully and a jerk, but it seems to some extent that Dohrmann exaggerated and sensationalized pieces of the story to sell magazines and continue his crusade against UCLA. While I don't buy much of what Reeves says in his interview with Fred Rogan, this part, if true, is key to the refuting the most serious allegation against Reeves and UCLA regarding Reeves intentionally hurting James Keefe shoulder (around the 9:20 mark):

"When someone I am not even particular close with like James Keefe. . . . When someone like that reaches out to me and says he will go to court for me if he needs to. I think that shows people are pretty sincere [when they back him that the details are wrong.]"

But that is just it. The article to me is only another log on the fire. As class of 66 writes:

There are many good reasons to fire both the Athletic Director and the Head Coach of our basketball team.

But, I think it a mistake to attempt to ride the SI article to victory. It is seriously flawed and easily attacked.

As Scott Reid writes about the Bruins after the complete game victory over WSU (emphasis mine):

What was arguably UCLA's most complete game of a disappointing season was in marked contrast to a day earlier when UCLA officials and Coach Ben Howland scrambled to respond to a Sports Illustrated feature in which players and staff members from recent UCLA basketball teams said Howland's failure to control an influx of talented but disruptive players undermined discipline and morale within the program.

A day later, Howland and Bruins declined to portray the triumph as cleansing or a response to the story.

"The thing for us now is to move forward with this season," Howland said. "...We weren't looking at this as a statement win. I think we were trying to make a statement that we're a good team and we're disappointed about losing at Arizona last Saturday."

In reality, UCLA has a lot more to explain than just the Sports Illustrated story. The Bruins began the season as Pac-12 favorites but go into Saturday's regular season finale with Washington sixth in a conference with a collective power rating lower than the Atlantic 10.

The Bruin players to their credit came out and played a good game amidst the turmoil. But I think this is a bit hyperbole:

The triumph came a day after the release of a Sports Illustrated report that painted a picture of disarray, detailing a lack of discipline and declining moral at the once-storied program.

David Wear scored all 13 of his points after halftime and Jerime Anderson added nine assists for the Bruins (17-13, 10-7 Pac-12), who shot a season-best 61.2 percent and made 10 of 14 3-pointers.

Brock Motum scored 18 as the only player in double-figures for Washington State (14-15, 6-11).

The Bruins played inspired, particularly on the defensive end, scoring 22 points off turnovers and holding the Cougars to 38.1 percent shooting.

The players themselves downplayed the significance of the "inspired" game or it being a win to support Howland:

"I guess that's how it looks, but we just needed another win," Bruins guard Lazeric Jones said. . . .

The story, they say, was a nonfactor.

"We stayed together as a team and family," Wear said. "There was no real reaction, nobody really talked about it. We just moved on."

For one night, it felt good to be a Bruin again.

But David Wear may have let slip that it was important to them (emphasis mine):

David Wear, who had 13 points, said the Bruins were unified.

"We stood together as a team and family," Wear said. But, he claimed, "there was no reaction to the article."

Still, Wear said, "We needed to have a good game." . . .

Washington State scored the first five points, then was buried. Jones scored seven consecutive points and the Bruins were off to a stress-free evening, leading 38-19 at halftime. A 13-2 run to open the second half doused any comeback thoughts.

The usually good Peter Yoon at ESPN tries to put a positive spin on things.

Tyler Lamb had one of his best games as a Bruin with 16 points and five assists. He is a sophomore. TwinsDavid and Travis Wear, also sophomores, continued their solid play with a combined 21 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Norman Powell made two of three 3-point shots and finished with eight points.

Those guys are the future of UCLA basketball, the guys who will be asked to carry the Bruins out of the current mess they are in, and that's a good thing because they showed that not only can they play, but all are high-character people. . . .

If the way the Bruins responded Thursday is any indication of the direction of the program in the wake of the rippling Sports Illustrated report, the Bruins are in good hands. . . .

It's no wonder the program lost its way. But now, with the current corps of players, the Bruins are on the verge of rediscovering the UCLA way.

Howland may have another dream set of players coming in but I don't see any guarantee of the nightmare not being repeated at some point. The last four years have not been up to UCLA standards and that has nothing to do with one Sports Illustrated Article.

Go Bruins.