Howland’s starting to feel the heat in UCLA

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Ben Howland is officially on notice.

When Bill Plaschke, the feature columnist for the Los Angeles Times, writes about UCLA’s issues and puts you on the hot seat, that’s bad. That means L.A.’s taken a time out from talking about the Lakers to notice that the Bruins are hardly a hoops power.

UCLA stunk it up last year – and missed the NCAA tournament – and has hardly turned it around this season. The Bruins are 11-6 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-10. They’ll be lucky to win 18 games.

Still, Plaschke didn’t go overboard. He declared Howland one of the county’s 10 best coaches and notes his success producing NBA-quality players such as Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, not to mention he’s less than three years removed from three consecutive Final Four trips. But with a new arena coming and the Bruins turning in yet another mediocre season, Howland has no wiggle room.

The potentially killer date? Feb. 5. That’s when ex-UCLA coach Steve Lavin comes to town with St. John’s, his new team that’s faring just fine in the bigger tougher Big East.

A loss to Lavin? That might be too much to handle.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.