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Lavin won't resign, but can UCLA rebound?

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Jan. 13
The rumors are circulating big-time. Hey Hollywood, get the story out as the soap opera at UCLA goes on. Will Bruins coach Steve Lavin be back? Or will he pack it in? Will AD Dan Guerrero give Stevie the ax? There are all kinds of rumors hitting the street out in Westwood.

Forget about it: Steve Lavin isn't going anywhere. Actually, he's going to his office, to work hard and give his best. These are not uncharted waters for the beleaguered coach. He has been there before, when his doubters have screamed and yelled for a change. But Lavin has always found a way to survive.

To think that Lavin would throw in the towel during the season and simply walk away, forget about it. That would mean professional disaster for him if he tried to get a job in the future.
The only way he'll make it this time is by posting a lot of Ws and doing it quickly. The pressure is on, and the next two challenges will not be easy.

On Thursday, Arizona State and one of the nation's most underrated diaper dandies (Ike Diogu) visit Pauley Pavilion. Coach Rob Evans will have his team ready. Then on Saturday, a matchup that is usually a big battle pits Arizona vs. UCLA. Usually these teams are going at it for Pac-10 honors. This time, the Bruins are simply vying for respect.

The big question is, can the UCLA players who came out of high school with a big buildup perform as great as advertised? Or are these guys simply overrated?

I don't know, but if my back were against the wall, I would roll up my sleeves and fight back. If the Bruins get together and go in the same direction, Lavin and his team can turn things around. They're capable of regaining respectability.

If Guerrero wants to pull the trigger -- and we saw him do just that at the end of the football season with ex-coach Bob Toledo -- Lavin is in good shape financially. There's a $1.3 million buyout figure in his deal, with a six-year rollover contract. There's no doubt that the Bruins' coach has one of the premier agents in Arn Tellum. Tellum represents some of the greats in pro sports: Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, Nomar Garciaparra and Mike Mussina to name a few.

Come on, Arn, I'd like a little percentage of that group, baby!

Sure, Guerrero might fire Lavin at the end of the season after his final evaluation. But to think that Lavin would throw in the towel during the season and simply quit and walk away, forget about it. That would mean professional disaster for him if he tried to get a job in the future.

Even if Lavin doesn't get it done this season and a change is made, he has a good resumé. Now in his seventh season at UCLA, Lavin has averaged 20 wins per season and taken his team to the Sweet 16 five of the past six years. The only other coach to accomplish the same feat in the same time period is Duke Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski!

Steve Lavin
It's pressure time at UCLA. When you consider all the previous championships at Pauley Pavilion and see all those banners, you can feel the heat. It's like 49ers coach Steve Mariucci when he walks into work every morning. Think he doesn't feel some pressure when he sees those Super Bowl trophies? Memories of the Bill Walsh era certainly add pressure!

For Lavin and Mariucci, you're only as good as your last performance. Man, it's tough to coach under that kind of scrutiny.

Yes, UCLA has been a major disappointment this season. Expectations are always high in Westwood, but to sit at 4-7 with five home losses -- to San Diego, Northern Arizona, Michigan, crosstown rival USC and St. John's -- that's tough to swallow. You can understand some of the unrest.

So it's time for everyone involved in UCLA basketball to step up and come through as a team. It's time to play better basketball and post some Ws on the board.

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