Ben Howland, the free-agent college basketball coach fired by UCLA last year, apparently is going to remain out of work for another season, barring an 11th-hour coaching move or a dominoes-falling sequence involving an NBA head man that would seep down a level.
All of which means, Oregon State’s new hire to replace Craig Robinson is likely to be a lot less splashy than might have been the case with Howland.
To review: Last Monday, Oregon State made official its termination of Robinson, President Obama’s brother-in-law, finally coming to the same conclusion most of us had reached at least a couple of years ago: Robinson assembled pretty decent talent but he couldn’t coach it.
Nevertheless, OSU athletic director Bob DeCarolis had sunk future millions into Robinson. The Beavers were on the hook for about $4 million when they made the move to jettison him.
The Beavers lost to Radford in the first round of the Detritus-After-the-NCAA-and-NIT-Have-Chosen Tournament, and it was awhile later that DeCarolis sent out a missive to followers asking support for the coach. It was assumed by a lot of people, honestly, that Robinson was destined to stay in office as long as his brother-in-law did.
Then something strange happened on the first Monday in May. Robinson was gone, and the timing was a head-scratcher.
Until you started building the theory: OSU stood little or no chance to nab Howland immediately after the season concluded. He was going to be involved with the jobs at places like Missouri and Marquette. But he was passed over for those, and he was the last girl without a prom date weeks later, and he had to be looking pretty good to the homely figure that is OSU basketball, with its 24-year drought of NCAA tournaments.
So, one way or another, OSU and Howland connected via back channels, and all that remained was for them to wait out a period of job-posting and, in no time, Howland could be calling timeouts again at the weirdest junctures.
Except . . . according to reports, Howland has now bailed on the job. Or maybe OSU did the bailing for him. Either way, it seems more apparent that DeCarolis really had no grand plan, and we’re back to wondering why he chose May 5 to fire Robinson.
Not to suggest Howland necessarily would have been a master stroke for DeCarolis. Howland’s success has been at urban schools (Pitt and UCLA) and Oregon State isn’t that. He also had some recruiting problems in LA, and didn’t come off well in a Sports Illustrated portrayal of him a couple of years ago. But he can coach defense, and lord knows Oregon State fans haven’t seen any of that since Ralph Miller snuffed out his last More cigarette back in 1990. And the name itself would have been worth some buzz.
Now the Beavers may be onto Damon Stoudamire, the Arizona assistant coach. He’s a street-smart guy, product of Portland and a longtime NBA player. But his coaching resume is awfully thin — stops at Rice, Memphis and one year in Tucson under Sean Miller — totaling six seasons. At least he knows what Oregon State’s about, but would he figure to match Xs and Os with people like Miller and Tad Boyle and Larry Krystkowiak?
Maybe Oregon State has some stealth candidate that will knock the socks off its fans. Or maybe it’s just out there, trying to nail Jell-O to the wall again.