Ben Howland

More speculation about Ben Howland’s job status

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On Sunday, we did a post about a column from Bill Plaschke of the LA Times on Ben Howland and how, regardless of what this UCLA team does in the NCAA tournament, he may have worn out his welcome in Westwood.

On Tuesday, the LA Times again wrote about Howland’s job status and how no one — not Howland, that the UCLA AD, not anyone — around the program will discuss it.

Things don’t exactly sound promising:

Asked Sunday how important it was to the program for UCLA to perform well in this year’s NCAA tournament, Howland said, “I think you should contact Dan.”

Asked how important the tournament was for him, he said, “Contact Dan. I am not going to make any comment.”

Dan is Dan Guerrero, UCLA’s athletic director, and attempts to contact him Monday were unsuccessful.


Guerrero has publicly offered only brief comment on Howland’s job security. In February, he declined to discuss the situation in detail because he said there was “a lot of season left to play.” However, he did say that with the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class, “there were high expectations when the season began. Those expectations remain high. The coaches know that, the assistant coaches know that and the players know that.”

Let’s assume Howland’s gone after this season. This is where things get interesting.

The USC job is currently open, and Jamie Dixon is a Southern California native that has had his named linked with the opening. If Dixon leaves, would Howland head back to Pittsburgh, a place where expectations are a bit lower and where his grind-it-out, blue-collar brand of basketball would be accepted? And if Howland does leave for Pitt, that means that, all of a sudden, one of college basketball’s six best jobs is suddenly available.

Is that enough to sway Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart to leave their cushy outposts? Both Stevens and Smart have families, young kids and a job where they will never be fired, are constantly getting their programs moved to better leagues, and make millions. Are they going to move to the other side of the country to coach at a program where you can make three Final Fours in a decade and be fired?

Would it be enough to convince Mark Few to leave Gonzaga? What if the Zags make the Final Four, will he feel like he’s reached the pinnacle of where that program can go?

Let’s assume all three of those guys say no.

UCLA is one of the blue bloods. Who do they go out and get?

More importantly, UCLA, who do you want them to go out and hire?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.