Ben Howland is done at UCLA, and Sports Illustrated’s George Dohrmann does an interesting job on SI.com of detailing how Howland fell out of favor among the area’s AAU coaches for his alleged treatment of Kendall Williams, who ended up at New Mexico.
The next coach at UCLA will be an interesting choice by athletic director Dan Guerrero, who didn’t cover himself with glory in two straight football hires — Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel.
More than with most hires, this is one of those where you’d better have a good idea whom you can attract before you make it a two-fold, neatly cleaved process: The firing, and then the hiring. Perhaps it became a fait accompli that Howland had to go. But the names out there as possible successors leave some of us wondering: Exactly who is the right guy for this job? And more than that, can UCLA get him?
The two names being floated are Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth, everybody’s hot candidate; and Brad Stevens of Butler, everybody’s hot candidate every year.
Reaction: I’d guess it’s less than 50-50 that UCLA can hire Smart, perhaps significantly less than 50-50. He’s not a West Coast guy and he’s turned his back on a lot of other jobs. As for Stevens, if UCLA hasn’t already asked this, I’ll ask it for them: Why would he fit at UCLA? The Bulldogs play a rugged, physical, defensive style. They do run some, and they shoot threes, but the sum of it — once you strip away that Stevens is marketable and proven — is that there are some style similarities to Howland.
There’s also the thought that the Bruins would pursue a former NBA coach. Unless they can land Phil Jackson, I’m wondering whether that moves the needle, either.
So I’ll ask the unfathomable question: How good a job is this?
Howland wasn’t paid an exorbitant sum by today’s standards. The expectation is that a coach has to win there, and win big, and please fans with the style, and fill the stands. Yes, there is talent galore in the LA area — seems to me you really have to screw it up not to have consistently good recruiting years — but sum it all up, and you’re going to have to convince a prospective new coach that a place that just fired a coach for winning his conference regular-season title is really not that wacked-out. That, even if you don’t have to win on the order of John Wooden, the word “rebuilding” isn’t in their dictionary, either.
Lots of luck.