Earlier this season, the speculation was overwhelming: there was no way that UCLA head coach Ben Howland would return next season.
Not after he lost two more former blue-chip recruits to a transfer. Not after he lost to Cal Poly. Not after the seats at Pauley Pavilion remained unfilled. Not after he managed to tick off just about everyone around the UCLA program, namely Bill Walton, the former UCLA center who has made ripping Howland on ESPN broadcasts his favorite hobby.
But that was before Howland rallied this team and led them to the Pac-12 regular season title and took them to the Pac-12 tournament title game where they could have won if it weren’t for a broken foot suffered by star Jordan Adams.
And yet, that may not be enough to safe his job, if you believe what Bill Plaschke has to say:
There is talk that the athletic department, for both basketball and business reasons, wants this season to be Howland’s last. There is word that a $2.3-million buyout is already in place. There is a feeling that only a Sweet 16 appearance could save his job, and even that might not be enough.
Dan Guerrero, the Bruins’ athletic director, will be faced with a tough choice that perhaps has already been made. The real shame is that Howland’s short-handed team won’t be dressed for the kind of success that could make that decision tougher.
At some point, it’s not even about basketball anymore. People around the UCLA program may be fed up with Howland, and that’s enough to cost someone their job when he’s not winning the way UCLA expects him to win.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.
On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.
One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.
As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).
And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.
While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.
And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.
St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.
Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.
St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.
The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?