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Saturday, April 5, 2003
Howland has rebuilding job in front of him

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

NEW ORLEANS -- New UCLA coach Ben Howland said he did let his players at Pittsburgh know that there was a possibility he could leave for the Bruins' job.

He said he didn't know he had the job until Wednesday night after meeting with the players Monday. He was whisked away on a private jet to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Howland said money wasn't the reason he took the job (in fact, he said it was essentially a wash financially, and he's probably lost buying power considering the cost of living in the Los Angeles area).

He said he simply wanted to be closer to his parents, who live 90 minutes from Westwood.

"My father has had two open-heart surgeries,'' Howland told ESPN.com Friday upon arriving in New Orleans for the Final Four. "I want to be closer to my family.''

Howland had a Friday night meeting with John Wooden, his first with the former UCLA coach. Wooden was in New Orleans and he wanted to meet the 92-year old legend before he gets to Westwood.

"He's responsible for seven other coaches being fired so I'd like to put an end to that streak,'' Howland said in jest about the standards of living up to Wooden's championship level of play.

Howland said he's got a major rebuilding job ahead and wasn't left any favors with the limited scholarships available. The Bruins have none left for this recruiting class and because of the five/eight rule (five newcomers a season, no more than eight in a two year period), the Bruins have only two next season.

"This isn't going to be easy,'' Howland said.

What else we're hearing:

Pittsburgh: Memphis coach John Calipari, a Pittsburgh native, is being lured by Panthers' boosters. But he isn't being lured by the school -- yet. He said he hasn't heard from anyone at Pittsburgh. Calipari said he won't pursue the job but that doesn't mean he won't listen. Howland is pushing his assistant Jamie Dixon. Howland said his former players went to Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and requested Dixon be the coach.

North Carolina: Assistant coaches say that only four players -- Damion Grant, Jackie Manuel, Melvin Scott and Rashad McCants -- so much as hinted at transferring before Matt Doherty and the staff were sacked by athletic director Dick Baddour. But the reality is, according to the former staff, Manuel was the only one who probably would have carried through on the threat. Baddour said the fact players were threatening to leave was the leading factor in dumping Doherty. Assistant coach Bob MacKinnon is trying to land another job and interviewed at Columbia and Elon (N.C.) College. MacKinnon and everyone else on the staff is scrambing.

South Florida: Hartford coach Larry Harrison is trying to get involved with the South Florida search. Harrison was an assistant at Conference USA member schools DePaul and Cincinnati. Harrison also graduated from USF.

Georgia: Creighton's Dana Altman, Western Kentucky's Dennis Felton, Indiana's Mike Davis, former Bulls coach Tim Floyd and former Hawks coach Lon Kruger seemed to be the most legitimate candidates as of Friday -- but that could change. If Davis were ever to leave Indiana, don't be surprised to see Iowa's Steve Alford and Utah coach Rick Majerus first in line to succeed him. Altman would be a natural fit at Iowa.

Kansas: If Roy Williams takes the North Carolina job, look for Illinois coach Bill Self to jump at the Jayhawks. Marquette's Tom Crean could be a player with the Illini if that occurred, but he might stay for a larger opening, say, at Kentucky. If Tubby Smith were ever to leave (possibly for the NBA), the list for the Wildcats would likely be Crean, Self, Notre Dame's Mike Brey and Gonzaga's Mark Few.

Kentucky/Arizona: Arizona's Lute Olson and Kentucky's Tubby Smith shook hands Friday morning and laughed that everyone predicted the two would be playing in Saturday's national semifinal. Both were eliminated in the Elite Eight.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com



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