UCLA fired Ben Howland after the Bruins landed the No. 2 ranked recruiting class, won the Pac-12 regular-season title, advanced to the NCAA tournament and posted a 25-10 record.
That’s not taking into account Howland won more games at UCLA (233-107) than anybody not named John Wooden. He is one of three coaches to reach three straight Final Fours since the NCAA tournament field expanded to 64. He had just two losing seasons in 10 years at UCLA and missed the Big Dance three times. He won two conference tournament titles and captured the regular-season title four times.
If Howland coached anywhere else in the Pac-12, they’d build him a statue. At UCLA, the Bruins gave him a $3.2 million buyout to go away.
USC dismissed coach Kevin O’Neill after a 7-10 start this season, but UCLA’s decision seemingly raises the bar in the conference and the spotlight now shifts on other schools with coaches who have achieved much less than Howland.
Here’s a look at Pac-12 coaches on the hot seat.
KEN BONE, WASHINGTON STATE — The Cougars (13-19) finished last in the conference for the second time under coach Ken Bone and it’s unknown if he’ll return next season. He has three years left on his original deal. A buyout would cost WSU $2.55 million. Bone is 70-65 record (.519) in four seasons at WSU. However, his league record is 26-46 (.361) and he’s 0-4 in the conference tournament.
CRAIG ROBINSON, OREGON STATE — It looks as if the Beavers will give him another year to turn around a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1990. He signed an extension in 2012 that expires in 2017. Still Robinson may be wearing out his welcome. After five seasons, he can no longer blame OSU’s problems on the previous regime. He’s increased the talent, but the results have been sporadic, he has a 78-89 record (.467) and attendance at Gill Coliseum is among the lowest in the conference. Worst of all, Robinson is 1-5 against in-state rival Oregon since Dana Altman took over three years ago.
JOHNNY DAWKINS, STANFORD — Dawkins and Robinson are linked in many ways because they began their Pac-12 coaching tenure together. Robinson inherited a horrible program whereas Dawkins took over a team that made 13 NCAA tournament appearances in the previous 14 years. In five seasons under Dawkins, the Cardinal are 94-74 (.560) and have never been to the Big Dance. You’d think at some places that would be enough to get you fired, but Stanford is a football school first and foremost. Still, attendance at Maples Pavilion is the second lowest in the conference.
HERB SENDEK, ARIZONA STATE — He began the year with back-to-back losing seasons and was firmly on the hot seat. Critics pointed to the rash of transfers over the years, assistants jumping ship to other teams, an unappealing style of play that turned off fans and possibly recruits and sagging attendance at Wells Fargo Arena. When ASU started Pac-12 play with a 7-3 record, Sendek looked like a coach of the year candidate. However, the Sun Devils (22-13) finished the season with six losses in the last eight games. If ASU loses star freshman Jahii Carson, it’s prospects for next season will greatly diminish. Last year Sendek signed a tw0-year contract extension on a deal that expires in 2016. After seven years and a 120-109 (.524) record at ASU, you have to wonder if Sendek would bail if given the chance.
LARRY KRYSTKOWIAK, UTAH — School officials likely understood just how far the program had fallen when they gave Krystkowiak a five-year contract worth about $950,000 in April 2011. Utah fans endured a horrendous 6-25 season during his first year. Krystkowiak flipped revamped the roster and was rewarded with dramatic improvements. The Utes finished 15-18. Still, they’re 8-28 against Pac-12 in the past two years. Utah needs to show continued improvement. Another season like 2011-12 campaign could spell a short run for Krystkowiak. Utes fans are still pining for the glory days when Rick Majerus made 11 NCAA tourney appearances and built Utah into a regional powerhouse.