Back on track: UCLA renovates roster, arena
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — Storied Pauley Pavilion, home of the UCLA Bruins, had for some time been in need of major remodeling and upgrading, and the resulting renovation that debuts this fall looks like one of the most impressive rebuilding efforts in college basketball.
Soon, UCLA fans, sitting in their comfortable seats with their pretty sightlines and chomping on the snacks from revamped concession stands, will find out if the improvements extend to what is happening on the court.
You didn’t need a good seat (though there were plenty available) at Bruins home games last season to notice things had fallen into disrepair there, too. In late February, Sports Illustrated ran a long, scathing indictment of UCLA coach Ben Howland and his program. SI portrayed Howland as aloofly overseeing an undisciplined program that, because of a variety of problems, had lost its status as the top program in the Pac-12 and a consistent national title contender.
The season was painful from beginning to end, in large part because Pauley was off-limits because of construction and most of the Bruins’ home games were played at the forgotten, dilapidated downtown Sports Arena, a facility so dreary that UCLA’s cross-town rival, Southern California, had abandoned it as its home court.
March was merciless. Not only did the Bruins, who finished 19-14, fail to make the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years, they also were snubbed by the National Invitation Tournament.
Howland, 55, in his 10th season at UCLA, has a gruff personality and often seems, like a lot of coaches, leery and defensive. How much he took the criticism in the SI piece to heart is hard to say, but he says it caused him to reassess his methods and leadership.
“That article was directly aimed at me,” he says. “And, ultimately, I’m the one responsible for the program. Absolutely, it made me take a very hard look. I’ve always tried to improve at everything we do. You always try to learn from your mistakes. I’ve looked at myself and how I’m running this program.”
Positive first steps
Howland tightened a … [For more on Back on track: UCLA renovates roster, arena, click here.]