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The Seat Temperature At the End of the UCLA Bench

UCLA surprised many by making it to the Sweet Sixteen. Does that mean there is no "Hot Seat" at the end of the bench?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Let me appease the geezers first, and what better way to do that than by saying "In the olden days."  So in the olden days, the NCAA tournament started with the Sweet Sixteen.  UCLA always expected to be in the tournament, so that meant a spot in the Sweet Sixteen was an assumption that everyone made at the beginning of the year, along with not being able to find a good parking place.

That has all changed, and whether the change is for the good is another topic.  With the change in the tournament structure came a gradual eroding of expectations at UCLA.  Our athletic director is famous for managing expectations.  So does making the Sweet Sixteen mean all reasonable expectations have been met?  Is the temperature of the seat at the end of the bench a nice pleasant one?  Laying aside the actual seat temperature, what should it be?

Let's look at some of the reasons why the guy currently in charge should have no concerns at all about job security, and we'll try to be objective about it.  There will be no discussion of "playing better at the end of the season," because the guy currently in charge is supposed to have them playing well at the beginning of the season, too.  Also, "playing better" is just too subjective.  Now, back to the objective reasons for a cool, comfortable seat temperature.

First, of course, is the buy out.  We have had quite a few coaches who have had better records, but none had a buy-out provision like the one our athletic director felt he needed to give in order to sign the guy he wanted.  The buy out means that the actual seat temperature stays nice and comfy longer than it otherwise would.

Second, he's riding a two game winning streak, and it's a particularly important two games.  By winning the first two games, the team will have met the "managed expectations" of the athletic director.

Third, the team has won 8 of 11, demonstrating ..., well, I suppose demonstrating that they could win 8 of 11 (and let's not bother to look at who those wins were against or who the losses were against.)

There are reasons why the temperature should be heading upwards, though.

  • The middle part of the schedule, when we went 7-9.
  • Kentucky (behind 24-0 before getting our first points at the 12:21 mark, behind 41-7 at half, etc.)
  • Losing to teams which should have to buy a ticket to watch us play (19-15 Alabama, 16-17 Colorado )
  • The seeming inability to win a game outside the Los Angeles city limits (until tournament time).
  • Committing to three guys who wouldn't be able to play.  Either they couldn't get into the school, couldn't be counted on to maintain academic eligibility (having been unable to get decent grades at a less academically inclined institution), or because of the rules, which every coach should know, wouldn't have been eligible to play this season anyway.
  • Deciding in advance that kid who has developed into a fine shooter was really a point guard, even when it was apparent that dribbling the ball in traffic was not his long suit.
  • Fixating on the point-guard-ness of his son to the degree that he never made a real attempt to get an actual point guard for this year.

There are more reasons for the temperature gauge to be heading in either direction, but where should it be right now, before we play our third game?  Where would it have been if the kid from SMU had managed to hit either of his open jump shots at the end of the game?

I know what my conclusion is about the guy currently in charge, and it has nothing to do with the 9,000 pound gorilla sitting on his back.  That's another issue altogether.  I'll reserve my own opinion as to the warmth or coolness of that particular chair.  I don't want to be accused of being a "sunshine pumper" or having anyone yell, "Your too negative" (a lot of those who complain have issues with apostrophes, but that, too, is another issue).