Steve Lavin took much heat as he was unceremoniously fired from UCLA. He’s been taking heat since from Bruin fans who think of ‘The Lavin Era’ with scorn and disdain. I look at the seven years with Lav as a good time; six tourney appearances, six 20-win seasons and five Sweet Sixteens. At UCLA, the expectations are higher butLav was a first-time head coach TWO years removed from being a third-assistant. He was given an opportunity that was AT THE TIME was over his head. He learned, he knows the game and he will succeed at St. John’s.
See ya in the Final Four 2014, Red Storm.
Kudos to Ramona Shelbourne on her new gig for EspnLosAngles.com, espousing on the inconsisent, difficult-to-read play of both the USC and UCLA hoops squads.
That said, folks back in the Tri-Valley of Eastern Washington are disappointed reading about the upstart Bruins defeating the Cougars, 74-62. Again, the continued scrappy play of Mustafa Abdul-Hamid provided a constant spark. The Bruins are now one game out of first place – and two games out of last – in the Pac-10 conference standings. The conference Champion will get a bid, but will that champ be the only team from the Pac-10 to make the tourney?
I’m telling you, how can you not harken back to this guy during times such as these:
Oh yeah, that’s right.
I will tell you this, however, Kevin O’Neill is doing a helluva job in obscurity (and sanctionville) after the implosion of last year’s Trojan squad. I’ll bet even this guy is proud:
Bytheway Dodger fans – have you checked out Dylan Hernandez’s Twitter yet?
As far as the Angels are concerned, an unemotional goodbye is in order for strangely estranged Native Son Gary Matthews Jr., traded unceremoniously for Brian Stokes, another California kid. Matthews never really fit under Arte’s regime; always the fourth outfielder, sort of in a Juan Pierre-esque fashion – Matthews definitely is good enough to play centerfield wherever he wants, but his hitting just hasn’t been the same since the suspiciously successful 2006 year he had with the Rangers. The HGH accusations didn’t sit too well at home, nor with the Angels’ brass.
Also I keep saying it – don’t sleep on the Kings this year. NHL pundit Jason Sapir says they still may be too young, but with inspirational wins such as the 3-2 comeback over the Red Wings becoming commonplace, don’t be surprised if they ride young goalie Jonathan Quick to a deep run in the Playoffs. With five Olympians, the squad is immensely talented. And well coached. Even with the rift between negative18er Jack Johnson and stud GM Dean Lombardi, the Kings are playing well, and holding on to the seventh seed in the West.
The already disappointing UCLA Bruin hoops season (2-4, including losses to Long Beach St. & Cal-St Fullerton, with Kansas & Mississippi St. next on the agenda) just became more difficult, as the FireBenHowland watch officially began with Super Sophomore Drew Gordon’s Transfer.
Howland’s failure as Coach, at least in corralling big-name talent within the confines of his program, has been evident for the past two years – which, yes, did follow three consecutive Final Four appearances. The problem is NOT with Howland’s ability to coach. He’s a fine coach; a phenomenal coach, even.
Ben Howland says: I guess you can say UCLA is an “elite” program.
The fact is, though – he is not a UCLA coach; the Bruin program sustained elite status through the decades with athletic, heady players buying into variations of a run-n-gun theme, from Wooden to Harrick to yes, Steve Lavin. What Bruin fans – and Bruin hoopsters – are accustomed to is filling seats at Pauley due to exciting, high-flying basketball befitting of their Blue Chip recruit status.
And yes, Howland can recruit his ass off; he’s had top-five classes during four of the past six years. Howland can also coach. He turned Northern Arizona (who?!?) and Pittsburgh into stronger-than-anyone-ever-expected programs, and he revitalized Westwood with the recent string of successes. That said, his successes came at a price – who can forget UCLA’s plodding, defensively smothering, arduous, grind-it-out playing style that served them so well during the Afflalo/Farmar/Shipp/Matt/Mbah-a-Moute Days? That style of ball does not land Howland any points with the top crop of phenoms that comes out of the L.A. playgrounds each year. And you can completely forget about grabbing the talent on the East Coast.
The “kids these days” don’t want to learn Howland’s trademark “aggressive man-to-man defense” so much as they want to be freed up to run, shoot, score on their way to a one-and-done “career” in NCAA basketball. There’s a reason Studio City’s Jrue Holiday was labeled a disappointment as a Bruin and ended up leaving after one season – he did NOT want to play this kind of basketball. Kevin Love, too – though he bought into Howland’s style, and was a true beast/monster in every regard, one season was enough. “If I want to work more on defense than my growth as a person, student & ballplayer, I’ll go to the NBA” seems to be a mantra, which brings us back to Drew Gordon. He left, simply because he was sick of being hindered by a coach that seems to believe that defense is the only way to win ballgames. “With the talent that’s on the UCLA team,” Gordon’s father, Ed, said, “there’s absolutely no reason for that to happen.”
Even more important, the younger Gordon felt like a bad fit in UCLA’s measured style of play. “His athleticism always has shined more in an up-and-down tempo,” his father said. “That’s not exactly what the UCLA system is about.”
Drew Gordon: Athletic as hell, and note Ben Howland in the background actually looking annoyed that one of his players would leap out of the gym.
The onus may not be fully on Howland, as BruinReportOnline provided some valuable insight into the transfer.
” He had a history of outbursts — against coaches in which he would argue vociferously, and against players. A source says that he was involved in three fights with his teammates, and Howland had warned him that there was no further tolerance of it.
When he was a high school prospect, we had heard quite a bit about him, about how he could be a difficult personality and tough to coach. When we learned that he had committed to UCLA we were particularly surprised, since we didn’t think he was a good fit for Howland’s program. The fact that he picked UCLA and Howland gave us a little hope that, perhaps, he recognized what he needed to make himself a better player.
Now, I’m not saying that Howland is a saint in all this. The way he coaches and runs his program, a player like Gordon was going to be naturally problematic. Perhaps there’s another coach out there that would be able to work with Gordon, adapt to his idiosyncracies, and get the most out of him.”
And that’s what this is about – adapting to the players that will come to your school. UCLA can get recruits even if Bozo the Clown is coaching in Westwood. It’s also about adapting to the times; at a second-tier program with second-tier recruits, defense may be the ONLY way to win games. Once you’re in prime time, though – it’s time to fly. And that’s what UCLA baskeball is and should be about.
Now will Ben Howland get fired? Of course not – he’s a great man and again, a spectacular coach. He’s just NOT the right coach for UCLA.