After a 20-point loss to lower-seeded Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, UCLA fired basketball head coach Ben Howland after ten years at the helm of the one-time college basketball superpower.
But insiders see Howland’s firing as less of a punishment for the early tournament exit, and more of a move necessary to regain the prestige of UCLA basketball infused in the program by legendary coach John Wooden. In fact, Howland’s Bruins won the Pac-12 conference championship this year, and he took the team to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament three years in a row (2006-08), but Sunday’s firing is a powerful statement from the university that they want more. Coaches are already lining up for the prestigious job, with Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens tipped as possible contenders.
Was UCLA right to dismiss Howland? Will the school give the next coach the time, support, and resources to restore their program to its former glory? Who should lead the Bruins basketball program in the wake of Howland’s firing? Are the good ol’ days coming back, or is the legendary Wooden era at UCLA gone forever?
A. Martinez, co-host of Take Two on KPCC