UCLA shifted into damage control Wednesday afternoon. Will it help?
The school issued a statement responding to a Sports Illustrated story that paints coach Ben Howland as the leader of a program in disarray, tolerant of players misbehaving and ignoring excessive alcohol and drug use.
UCLA officials are assessing the situation.
“It is disheartening for our Bruin community to be confronted with the type of assertions contained in the Sports Illustrated story,” Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement. “We take seriously any challenge to who we are and what we are about, and I am confident that any issues in our men’s basketball program will be rectified.”
Later, a separate teleconference, AD Dan Guerrero said this: “We’ll go through the rest of the season, and then we’ll sit down and talk about the situation like we always do. The article certainly raised some issues, but believe me we were aware of some of the issues.”
From Howland: “Like everyone else, I am always looking forward to improving as both a person and as a coach. I am proud of the coaches, staff and student-athletes in our program, and I look forward to our future.”
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of future Howland has at UCLA.
Forward Reeves Nelson – who was dismissed from UCLA earlier this season after numerous issues with teammates and Howland – was player who received most of the attention in the article. He confirmed many of the embarrassing incidents and expressed regret. From the AP:
“On all that stuff, I have no trouble admitting that I lost control of my emotions sometimes. I take responsibility for my actions. I’m really just trying to learn from the mistakes I made on all levels.”
But given how much leniency Howland gave to Reeves and others, the school may decide that the off-court problems and UCLA’s recent on-court woes – it’s 16-13 this season, making the likelihood of missing the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons a strong possibility – too much to keep him around.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.