Howland tries to remain steadfast
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
AUSTIN, Texas — In the early hours of Saturday morning, Ben Howland sat with two reporters inside a private room here in the Erwin Center, having just concluded his 10th and possibly final season at UCLA.
Spending nearly 10 minutes with USA TODAY Sports and Sports Illustrated, Howland meandered through the conversation, willing to talk about almost any subject — including the struggling print media industry — except his tenuous job security.
When asked specifically if he wants to return to UCLA next season, Howland said, “I have no comment. Anything in reference to any questions concerning my job status, I just want to talk about the fact that I am so proud of these kids.”
Howland said he has not been told anything by UCLA regarding his future. But after a decade at the school, his resume still includes three Final Four appearances, which is more than all the other Pac-12 coaches combined (one).
It’s different at UCLA. Bruins fans know they don’t hang Final Four banners inside Pauley Pavilion. And national championships are expected to come in bunches, like 10 in 12 years.
They are still chasing John Wooden in Westwood. They couldn’t find it in Jim Harrick, whom Jerry Tarkanian always said was ethically as straight as the letter ‘S’, and never found it in Steve Lavin despite all those Sweet 16 appearances. And now Howland, despite winning the Pac-12 regular season title, is facing criticism and questions about job performance and whether he is the right fit for another season.
Sitting in a chair in the private room, Howland said, “I am really excited about the year we had, really proud of the year we had. Sorry.”
Howland later said he apologized because he thought we did not want to hear that he was proud of the team.
“That’s exactly why I said it,” Howland said.
No question Howland has achieved great success, reaching three consecutive Final Fours between 2006 and 2008. But if Friday night was his last game, it was a disheartening 83-63 loss by the No. 6 Bruins against No. 11 Minnesota, whose own coach, Tubby Smith, will continue to … [For more on Questions swirling, Howland tries to remain steadfast, click here.]