Sports Illustrated reporter George Dohrmann’s exhaustive look at the unraveling of UCLA’s program (“Not the UCLA Way”) ultimately delivers the blame to one person: coach Ben Howland.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero will wait before committing to Howland
San Jose’s Drew Gordon, recruited to Westwood for his freshman season in 2008-09 and now finishing his career at New Mexico, is depicted as disruptive and immature.
Modesto native Reeves Nelson, kicked off the team early this season, was said by one former teammate to have had “this crazy side.” Nelson, interviewed by SI, acknowledged a series of incidents, most of them in practice, where his erratic behavior contributed to driving players out of the program.
Ultimately, according to the interviews Dorhmann conducted and the total picture he painted, Howland comes off as the overriding cause for the program’s collapse after three straight Final Four appearances from 2006 through 2008.
SI describes a pattern of Howland failing to discipline players who were causing trouble, said he was awkward socially and may have even been a model for the behavior of several players through his verbally abusive attitude toward assistant coaches, staff and lesser players.
As one player told the magazine: “Can you imagine the same thing happening at Duke? Can you imagine players getting away with that stuff under Coach K?”
The story certainly calls into question Howland’s future at UCLA. I had someone tell me last week they’d heard Howland might me planning to beat the posse out of L.A. by trying land the UConn job if Jim Calhoun resigned. Howland, of course, had great success at Pitt in the Big East Conference.
If that is his plan, this won’t be helpful to his resume.
In the short term, it will be curious to see how the Bruins react to this media storm. Will they be on the same page Saturday when they take in Pac-12 leader Washington in a game critical to Cal’s championship hopes?
It will be worth watching.