Tracy Pierson of BruinsReportOnline.com is as plugged into the UCLA program as any reporter in the country.
He’s the guy that broke the news that Joshua Smith will be transferring. He’s a voice that you can trust even if he’s speculating, because you can be sure that, somewhere in the UCLA hierarchy, that same speculation is happening.
Which is why I feel comfortable posting about the latest from Pierson, who, on Thursday, gave us a status report on the job status of Ben Howland.
And as you can probably imagine, it’s not all that promising. From BRO:
UCLA is currently leaning toward replacing Ben Howland as its head basketball coach, and he could be let go before the end of the season, according to sources.
There is also an indication that UCLA has taken preliminary steps in investigating potential coaching candidates.
Sources are indicating that booster and donation support of Howland has diminished considerably so far this season, and that has been critical in this development.
Frankly, none of this is a surprise. Howland is alienating boosters and coaching in front of sparsely populated crowds in the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. Players keep transferring out of UCLA, which certainly isn’t a good thing considering that Howland has dealt with two major PR disasters in 2012: George Dohrmann’s article in SI chronicling everything that went on in the UCLA program during Howland’s tenure and the fact that everyone that follows college hoops believes that he, in some way, managed to circumvent NCAA rules to land Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.
And, to top it all off, Howland is losing games to teams like Cal Poly.
At a place like UCLA, it simply doesn’t work like that.
And any scuttlebutt that says his job is in jeopardy is, frankly, not surprising.
The question that intrigues me more, however, is who will get the job is Howland is forced to step down. The Bruins are one of college basketball’s bluebloods; that job is, simply put, one of the best in the country. Would it be enough to get a guy like Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart to leave their current posts? Would the Bruins be able to lure in someone like Thad Matta or Mark Few? Would they look towards the NBA ranks for a replacement?
For now, that’s all speculation.
But the speculating won’t last long if Howland doesn’t turn things around this season.