It's official: UCLA fired its coach Ben Howard. Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero, along with the rest of the Bruins brass released a statement on Sunday night confirming the highly anticipated news and to also inform members of the media that a national search for his successor is currently in the works.
“I want to thank Ben for all that he has done for UCLA in his ten seasons in Westwood,” Guerrero said. “He embraced our tradition and culture and produced some terrific teams and coached a number of wonderful young men. We wish Ben and his family all the best as they move onto a new chapter in their lives.”
In 10 seasons with the Bruins, Howland compiled a 233-107 record. UCLA advanced to seven NCAA Tournaments in his tenure, including a three straight Final Fours appearances from 2006-2008.
“I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach at UCLA for 10 years...” Howland said in a released statement on Sunday. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity to coach and teach our players and work alongside tremendous coaches. The UCLA community and fans have been unbelievable to my family and I, and it’s been an honor and privilege to represent this great institution. I look forward to what comes next.”
For the Bruins, a new coach comes next. When that happens remains to be seen. The plan is to move forward, nonetheless.
As things stand now, UCLA has three important signed recruits from the Class of 2013, Allerik Freeman from Henderson (NV) Findlay Prep, Zach Lavine from Bothell (WA) and Noah Allen from Salinas (CA) Palma. Each plans to honor their commitment. At least, at this early stage of the game
"I don't think I can reveal any names on my mind, but I do have an idea of what direction we'd like to go,” Guerrero said. “We'll look for someone who can play a fun brand of basketball, but also a quality brand of basketball. We're going to try and bring someone here who will excite the fan base."
Below is the Bruin247 Coaching Hot Board. Names listed in alphabetical order.
Potential job applicant: Billy Donovan
Current job employment: Florida coach
Worth a shot: He might be a reach. Nevertheless, Donovan has built the Gators into a perennial postseason contender despite being at a football school, not basketball. His resume is impressive with appearances in the Sweet 16 six times, five in the Elite Eight, three in the Final Four and two national championships.
Probably not: In the midst of a run during the NCAA Tournament, Donovan figures to avoid any, and all, distractions. His focus undoubtedly is on the Gators nowadays. The Bruins must remain patient if they hope to land him. Or at the very least, make a run at him with the hopes of luring him to Westwood.
Potential job applicant: Shaka Smart
Current job employment: VCU coach
Worth a shot: The most intriguing part about this possible scenario is, the price could be right. The Bruins would not have to break the bank and overpay him. Plus, they would be getting a far younger individual who might connect a bit better with this generation's players, not a recent strong suit for Howland.
Probably not: He's been a hot commodity over the course of the past couple years. Each time and every time, however, Smart ended up returning to the Rams. Given that trend, signs point to him doing so again. The comfort factor can not be ignored in this instance and could to prove to the downfall for the Bruins.
Potential job applicant: Brad Stevens
Current job employment: Butler coach
Worth a shot: There is no arguing with the success he's had while building the Bulldogs into one of the more well-respected programs in the country. An early exit from this year's NCAA Tournament likely means Stevens has more than enough free time to explore his options. The timing could be perfect.
Probably not: He's used to being the big fish in small pond. Things figure to be decidedly different at UCLA. Another drawback is the fact that Stevens must start from scratch. Without knowledge of how the whole recruiting game works out in this neck of the woods, the challenges would be many for him.
Potential job applicant: Lorenzo Romar
Current job employment: Washington coach
Worth a shot: His ties to UCLA are undeniable after spending a number of years as an assistant coach for the Bruins. In terms of recruiting, seemingly no one does a better job of keeping West Coast prospects close to home than Romar. When push comes to shove, that could seal the deal for the UCLA administration.
Probably not: He's got a good thing going on with the Huskies. At least, that appears to be the case. Romar has carved out a nice little niche for himself in Seattle. Despite not being in the backyard to secure commitments from some of California's premier players, Romar manages to land the best from the Golden State.
Potential job applicant: Buzz Williams
Current job employment: Marquette coach
Worth a shot: He's a proven winner, especially in recent years, after guiding the Golden Eagles to five straight NCAA Tournaments and reaching the Sweet 16 three different times. Nothing wrong with that type of track record, far as we can see. There's plenty of buzz surrounding Buzz. No pun intended. Well, maybe a little.
Probably not: Similar to Smart and Stevens, Williams will have to figure out a way to play catch-up with West Coast recruits given his unfamiliarity with the region. And in a hurry. UCLA wants to win. Right now. Playing the waiting game while he attempts to get the pulse of the program appears to be a recipe for disaster.
Other names to consider: North Carolina State's Mark Gottfried, Villanova's Jay Wright, Gonzaga's Mark Few and Colorado's Tad Boyle.
Sean Ceglinsky has covered prep and college sports on the West Coast for the better part of the past 15-plus years. Follow him on twitter: @SeanCeglinsky
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