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Thursday / August 11.
  • Is Ben Howland A Dead Man Walking?

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    Is UCLA coach Ben Howland a dead man walking?

    That is the $64,000 question as the Bruins get set to face Minnesota on Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

    Some reports out of Los Angeles indicate that Howland’s fate has already been sealed, and that the school has already completed his $2.3 million buyout.

    “There is a feeling that only a Sweet 16 appearance could save his job, and even that might not be enough,” Bill Plaschke wrote last week in the Los Angeles Times.

    “He’s under a lot of pressure after that recruiting class,” former UCLA great Reggie Miller told last week in New York. “He was expected to win, and he has, so let’s see if he can continue to do that.”

    Miller added that Bill Walton’s constant on-air criticism of Howland — which we documented in this earlier post — is “huge.”

    “He’s a huge critic, but I mean that’s Bill Walton,” Miller said. “And he has a right to say that, a guy that’s been so big for the UCLA program. He’ll understand what it takes. I don’t know their relationship, but it’s huge when a Bill Walton comes out with those types of comments.”

    After getting to keep his job following last season because of his loaded recruiting class, it’s certainly been an eventful few weeks for Howland, who led the Bruins to three straight Final Fours from 2006-8.

    He stirred controversy recently by announcing that star freshman Shabazz Muhammad was definitely headed to the NBA after this season, but some critics felt he was out of line.

    “It was so obvious and I was just answering a question,” Howland said Monday on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN Radio show.

    “I said, ‘Absolutely, he’s a top 10 pick and it’s obvious that at the end of the season he’ll be turning pro.’ And it turned into a much bigger deal than I ever would have anticipated.”

    Howland then received a technical foul for tossing his jacket into the stands during the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon after Muhammad was whistled for charging.

    Now, he’s come out and criticized the NCAA Selection Committee for giving UCLA a No. 6 seed in the wake of losing Jordan Adams for the remainder of the season with a broken bone in his right foot.

    “Our seedings in general as a whole for the Pac-12, I was a little surprised at,” he told Cowherd.

    “I thought we would end up being a better seed than 6. The head of the committee said they would’ve moved us up but because of the injury to Jordan Adams they kept us where we were at before the Pac-12 tournament even began, which I just don’t like. I don’t think it’s fair to our players or our team.

    “So we end up going out of the area and playing in Austin, Texas, and we probably would’ve been in San Jose or at least Salt Lake had we been a 5 seed.”

    Meantime, without Adams in the Big Dance, Howland said Muhammad and his teammates will have to make up for the loss of his 15.3 points per game.

    “We’ve got to spread it around,” Howland told Cowherd. “There’s no question [Muhammad] going to even get more shots and defenses are really trying towards him as they have been all year. He’s done a great job and he’s averaging 18 points per game as a freshman, and he’s just been fantastic.

    “But we need to get more scoring out of Larry [Drew III]. We need to get more scoring out of Travis and Dave [Wear]. We need to have Kyle Anderson pick up some of that scoring slack. And we need Norman Powell in his minutes to score more, which he did the other day.”

    Howland said the team took Monday off because they’re in finals, but would get back to work Tuesday planning for life without Adams going forward.

    “So it actually worked out good that we don’t play until Friday because that gives us an extra day with the finals that we have going on right now,” he said.

    Cowherd didn’t asked Howland to address his cloudy future, but as the Bruins head into the Big Dance, we shall find out soon enough.



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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.