UCLA: Gene Block

Doubtful that Howland's job is in jeopardy

March, 9, 2012
Ben Howland is probably safe for now.

The UCLA basketball team will miss the NCAA tournament this year, violating a cardinal sin among Bruin faithful for the second time in three years, and that in itself is a fireable offense, but Howland won't be fired.

Larry Farmer and Walt Hazzard are the only other UCLA coaches since John Wooden to miss two NCAA tournaments in three years and neither of them lasted much longer after, but Howland isn't going to join that group.

Add in the fact that UCLA is a program under scrutiny because of a recent Sports Illustrated report that alleges Howland's coaching style and recruiting misses are responsible for a program in disarray--not to mention a team that has been absent from the national rankings in all but one week over the past three seasons--and you have a pretty compelling case that many UCLA fans wouldn't shed tears should athletic director Dan Guerrero hand Howland his walking papers.

But don't look for Howland in the unemployment line just yet.

Howland is under contract through 2015 and it would take upwards of $3 million to buy out his contract, so that alone is enough to keep him around. The well-heeled donors and high-powered boosters would have to pony up the cash and there just isn't much of an anti-Howland groundswell among the one percent.

Howland is also set to bring in a top-ranked recruiting class with Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams already signed and Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker considering UCLA. Should Howland go, Muhammad and Parker would definitely be lost and Anderson and Adams would almost certainly ask to be released from their letters of intent.

With UCLA set to unveil a revamped Pauley Pavilion next season, it doesn't make sense to do it with the same team that just finished fifth in the Pac-12 conference plus some recruits they scramble to get after the current class heads elsewhere. And it definitely doesn't make sense to let some coach who has never coached at UCLA re-open the hallowed ground of UCLA hoops.

Guerrero has said he won't evaluate Howland until the season is over and as of now, the Bruins are a bubble team for the NIT and Howland said the team would accept an invitation to play, so Guerrero won't be making any decisions until after that and he will have to consult with chancellor Gene Block before making any decisions.

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Transcript: Dan Guerrero and Gene Block

February, 29, 2012

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero and chancellor Gene Block held a conference call with reporters Wednesday to discuss a Sports Illustrated report that alleged multiple wrongdoings by basketball coach Ben Howland and his players. The following is a transcript of the call:

GENE BLOCK (opening statement)

Every day, those of us fortunate enough to be associated with this great university take enormous pride in what UCLA represents so it’s particularly disheartening to me and to our Bruin community to be confronted with the types of assertions contained in the Sports Illustrated article about our men’s basketball program.

We all know the special place that UCLA basketball holds on this campus and beyond so any injury to the program is an injury to all of us. Because of this rich legacy we hold ourselves to a higher standard. John Wooden taught us that it’s not only important to take pride in our achievements, but also to take pride in how we live our lives.

There is no question that the story paints a picture of one of our premier programs that causes a great deal of concern. I have questions just like I know you do.

After conferring with Dan Guerrero, we’ve agreed to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the Universities policies, procedures and values are aligned with our continued pursuit of excellence. We expect all of our student athletes to abide by our university’s code of conduct at all times and to represent us proudly. At the same time, our players must be respected and provided with an environment that makes their college experience a rich and rewarding one.

Every day so many of our student athletes make us proud through their community involvement, campus leadership, academic achievement and competition on the court and on the field. Many of Ben Howland’s players are among them. Though it wasn’t fun reading the criticisms leveled against us this morning, I know we will be better as a result of them. I’m confident that Dan will be able to move us forward in men’s basketball and continue to lead our outstanding department of athletics.

DAN GUERRERO (opening statement)

When I became the athletic director at my alma mater almost 10 years ago, I was entrusted with leadership of what I believe is the nation’s premier athletic program. Our mission is clear: To provide a comprehensive student athlete experience for 24 sports that builds character, enhances our community and provides opportunities for academic and athletic excellence.

I’m reminded of that mission daily when I watch our more than 700 student athletes strive to be the best that they can be; when I walk by the academic center and watch our collaborative learning team at work; when I see the enthusiasm on the faces of our new football staff as they work late into the night.

Yet I’m also reminded of this core mission today at a time when we might have fallen short of this mission. I am disappointed to the extent that there may be merit in the Sports Illustrated story and that we could have done more for our student athletes and coaches. I’m angry that these alleged actions of a select few could cast doubts on all that is great about UCLA athletics. Yet I am determined to move forward and do everything in my power to ensure that our student athletes and our coaches live up to the values we believe in.

Coach Howland came to UCLA and quickly brought the program back to the nation’s elite, leading the team to three Final Fours with a tremendous group of young men. But he’s not perfect. He’s admitted both publicly and privately some of his shortcomings and mistakes. To be sure, we want to win more championships and do it the right way, which means there are expectations for both on and off the court behavior by Ben.

At UCLA, like our peer institutions, we place a high degree of trust in our head coaches. They in turn place a high degree of trust in their student athletes. But even with that trust, it’s clear that we don’t always meet the standards of expectation.

Federal privacy laws prevent any UCLA official from addressing any specific charges concerning former or current student athletes and therefore I’m unable to provide specific context around a number of the alleged incidences in the article. That said, as it relates to the alleged drug use or alcohol consumption by former and current members of our men’s basketball team, let me state that UCLA has programs in place that address alcohol abuse and a stringent and comprehensive drug testing program administered and supervised by a panel of experts, campus administrators, doctors and lawyers.

The university administration and department leadership take any reports of alleged drug use by our students seriously and we will continue to provide the necessary resources and support for members of our community.

But let me be clear, if in any instance I as a leader of this department or the members of our staff do not follow protocol, or do our very best to do what is in the best interest of our student athletes, then we probably have not lived up to our core mission. Should that be that case, then I will take responsibility for that and I can assure you that this will be remedied.

Coaching and playing basketball or any other spot at UCLA is a privilege and an honor and we’ve always sought to achieve excellence in character, in education, community and of course, also competition. Every coach and player that has ever been a part of UCLA knows that character and values are as important as winning. I’ve been a Bruin for more than 40 years. I know that the expectations of academic and athletic success are lofty and they should be. Yet I also know that high character is not an expectation, it is a requirement for every Bruin for that is what makes UCLA so great.

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