In the wake of the SI article aftermath…

It’d be stupid to make believe this article didn’t exist… so here it is:

Other articles of note:

Comment by major UCLA.RIVALS.COM author/contributor:

Just read the piece. my reaction is certainly negative – though i don’t think anything in the article was new or that surprising as we’ve all seen much of what was written about – this just went inside and documented much of what we haven’t seen – causes as opposed to mere effects.

We have all criticized certain things – playing favorites (or has anyone forgotten what we all – ALL – said about all the minutes Dragovic got while pretty much ignoring defense? or the criticism of Honeycutt for the same things?) – odd substitution patterns at times – like not playing Stover at all even when opponents were going on scoring runs. Allowing Gordon and Nelson to get away with behavior that in JRW’s day would not have been tolerated from day one. Knowing something is very wrong when ALL those guys bail on the program so early – some transferring out, some going pro even without a guaranteed contract (esp. Honeycutt – even Mbah a Moute who would have been a first rounder had he stayed one more year but he had just had it; Holiday was a first rounder but he clearly was disillusioned with Ben and the program as was his family).

i’ve commented here – not in articles but here in the Lounge – that insider friends of mine have gone 180 degrees on Ben since his first years, that he aliented a whole bunch of people – altho my impression is he has worked to clean up that part of his behavior. So, not shocking.

Some of it you have to wonder about taking with a grain of salt – like the injury to Alex Schrempf – a player is hacked from behind while going for a shot and falls to the floor. This is not rare in basketball – happens all the time. i would not be certain the hacker purposely intended that the heckee be injured. Nor have i never seen one player step on another while the guy was on the floor. i don’t like that sort of —-, but it happens in competitive environments.

But if you follow my comments here, i think it’s been apparent for quite a while that Reeves Nelson has some emotional problems. i really don’t think it’s simply a matter of lack of steady discipline. i know his parents have tried with him all along. The comment that stands out in the article is the other unnamed player’s comment about Reeves, that he was a nice guy but then would do these crazy things – something to that effect. i think that’s telling. i hope Reeves gets help and support he needs and learns to control his emotions – his demons – whatever – but clearly there are problems there. The Gordon situation seems more clear-cut to me. Yes, Howland should have stepped in quickly with Reeves, noticed what was happening and that it wasn’t simply a matter of “guys going at it hard” or that sort of thing.

But to me it was more obvious with Gordon. That one was clearly a situation that should – and that COULD – have been nipped in the bud and dealt with early on. Gordon’s okay under Steve Alford. Alford listens to his players, talks with them. No, he hasn’t been able to get Gordon to go hard every time out or to avoid taking plays off here and there in every game. But he HAS gotten Gordon to be productive, to actually rebound – and on OUR team only the Wears – who aren’t natural rebounders – at least work hard at it every game.

Those who already wanted Howland gone will seize on this article as a “reason” why. No doubt. For me, it’s not that black and white. As the author said, struggling teams have these sorts of issues. This isn’t unique in college basketball, especially today with all the young egos blown out of shape.

But i DO think the article finally has put a spotlight on the program’s problems so it’s no longer two separate camps – a few with inside knowledge and others frustrated by all the transfers and failures to perform as a team the last few years in one camp and a group of others who say “where’s the proof?” or point to former National Coach of the Year Ben Howland’s record and the three straight final fours in the other. Now the problems are out on the table for discussion.

i DO think it’s going to be hard for Ben to survive this – “this” being the problems of his own making and not just the publicity about them which is now national. Until now, national (Eastern-based) bb personalities shrugged off the concerns of UCLA fans by pointing to his Pittsburgh years and his three straight final fours and refusing to believe allegations that Ben was the OPPOSITE of a true disciplinarian. He wasn’t that way at Pittsburgh perhaps. NOW they won’t jump to his defense. And that leaves him pretty much on his own.

NOW there have to be significant changes made in the way the program is run. But i agree with those who think Ben’s tenure is hanging by a thread. i think a whole bunch of it comes down to the 2012 recruiting class. If it comes in intact – including Muhammed and Parker – Ben actually has a chance for a fresh start. The Wears are team players and hard workers – seem to me to be in the Mike Roll mold: focused and give their all all the time. Those two plus the four frosh form a nucleus. Hopefully Powell and Lamb will return. Hopefully Smith will acquire focus and some maturity and return in basketball shape.

If so, Ben can make some changes in how he treats ALL players and he can survive.
But if this recruiting class falls apart – especially if there are some transfers out after the season – i just don’t see how Dan Guerrero can give him much time. With new Pauley opening next year, an average – or worse – team won’t bring in the fan and booster support the program absolutely requires. Just won’t. And then there’s no choice at all left.

i think some of the extreme immediate reactions to the article are over-blown. Every teacher knows you can always ease up on discipline but you can’t successfully start without it and then   add it later on – doesn’t work. Also that discipline has to be reasoned and fair – NOT treating every person the same way but treating each fairly and not allowing anyone to “knock the train off the tracks” at the expense of others. But i ALSO believe the situation has gone on more than long enough for everyone to understand that it’s extremely serious and might just be irreparable.

i really do think it all hangs on this year’s recruiting class. i could be wrong about that, but what would be best for everyone involved would be for Ben to make the necessary changes and right the program and take UCLA back to the top. Resurrection. All of that. Replacing him will be highly traumatic. It’s as unlikely as it ever was that UCLA can successfully walk up to its top choices – like say Brad Stevens at Butler – and say here, come and take over our program. Stevens seems a lot like Chris Petersen at Boise State, a guy quite content to live and work in a smaller market, focusing on his craft rather than being a media star. Guys whose ambitions are focused on doing the best job they can rather than “getting to the top of the media-driven pyramid in their profession.”

But if things don’t turn around in a real hurry, i don’t see any other outcome

Comment by another significant UCLA.RIVALS.COM reader/contributor:

I have read most of the other posts on the topic, talked to other UCLA grads, and given this some thought. My opinion does not matter but I will give it anyways.

  1. If the 10 people you have had the hardest time working with were interviewed what would they say about you? How would that article make you look?
  2. Obviously Howland is flawed. That does not mean he is not a good coach. Guy has won at 3 different D1 programs and his players are doing exceptionally well in the NBA
  3. Male college students party and do drugs. A few of these kids partook too much but that is not really abnormal. Some of the best pro athletes who ever lived drank and consumed drugs on a consistent basis. No coach has or will ever be able to control this side of young men. Not even the great coach John Wooden.
  4. Nelson is clearly a troubled soul. From the little bit I know, Howland gave this kid enough rope to hang himself with because there was always a glimmer of hope that this very talented kid (who could be very nice) would turn it around. Could he have handled it differently? Sure. But it is so tough to handle these types of situations, especially with a kid like Nelson.
  5. Fighting in practice happens all the time. I saw Ed O’bannon throw a basketball at Toby Baileys face as hard as possible during practice. What was Bailey’s crime? He tried to block Obannon’s shot. Harrick sat Ed down for 5 minutes and then brought him back in. That was it. That team won a national championship.
  6. The basketball manager deserved to be fired. He should have learned his lesson but instead he went and spouted off to an SI reporter. I have no respect for him. Howland gave this kids an opportunity. He blew it. Now he is crying about it.
  7. No NCAA violations. Whew.
  8. Howland is going to have to be better at personality evaluation and management if he is going to survive at UCLA. He needs to put a little more into character, focus on one or two players each class who have talent and character, and then fill other spots with role players. He needs to figure out a better way to deal with players with attitude/emotional problems. His past methods have not worked.
  9. Assistant coaches are key. Based on the success and loyalty of some past coaches I am pretty sure Howland is not quite the A-hole the article makes him out to be. Sometimes, the most productive leaders are prickly. Look at the best coaches in the NFL. Not sure they have more than 1 friend between them. I think Howland improved his assistants this season and it is going to take a year or two before the benefits are reaped from this change.
  10. It is about wins and losses. As long as the program is clean and we are winning most of the rest is just noise. It only becomes important when we lose. So, it is simple. Howland better win. I thought he would get two more years but this article might have cost him one extra year of rope.

Posts by Jon Gold at the Daily News UCLA Blog:

ESPN LA 710 Radio Mason & Ireland [AUDIO]

Reeves Nelson: 3/2
Former UCLA Bruin Reeves Nelson who was in the SI story calls in to tell his side of the story. Nelson says he feels taken advantage of and wants to clear his name.

Mason & Ireland: 3/2 [hr3]
Mason & Ireland replay their interview with Nelson Reeves. Steve and John are live from the Nokia Plaza for Lakers Live and a preview of tonight’s game against the Kings and Sunday’s big game against the Heat.

[Fast forward – 15 minute mark]

NBCLA 4 Southern California [VIDEO]

Reeves Nelson Exclusive Interview
The fallout continues after Wednesday’s blistering attack on the UCLA Basketball program by Sports Illustrated. Other than Ben Howland, the focus of the article was on Reeves Nelson who was dismissed from the team in December. Reeves was portrayed as a kid who has anger problems and defied authority and he isn’t pleased. Fred Roggin talked exclusively with Reeves about the article.!/news/sports/Reeves-Nelson-Exclusive-Interview/141153553

Former USC Basketball Coach Tim Floyd (Now at UTEP):

Q&A: Former USC coach Tim Floyd praises and defends UCLA’s Ben Howland
Floyd, who also got caught up in controversy, says Howland has not lost control of the team and says Bruins’ issues have to do with poor backcourt talent pool. He says Howland is best man for job.,0,5887985.story

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