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.