Source: Howland out as UCLA coach
One day after his UCLA team suffered a blowout loss in the NCAA tournament, Ben Howland is out as head coach of the Bruins, a source confirmed Saturday to FOX Sports' Marques Johnson.
The announcement could come as soon as Sunday, according to several reports.
UCLA released a statement Saturday night saying, "Contrary to multiple media reports this evening, UCLA has not fired men’s basketball coach Ben Howland."
However, the statement leaves open the possibility that Howland could exit under some other term than outright dismissal. He is under contract through 2017.
With aspirations of going deep in this year's tournament, the sixth-seeded Bruins were routed 83-63 Friday by 11th-seeded Minnesota.
After the defeat, athletic director Dan Guerrero was asked about the embattled coach's job status and told Sports Illustrated, "We'll take stock in the next couple of days and talk like we always do with all coaches."
Howland coached the team to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08, but hadn't brought the Bruins out of the first weekend of the tournament since 2009. UCLA missed it altogether last season. This was his 10th season in Westwood, during which he was 230-106, a .685 winning percentage.
He had been criticized in past seasons for a halfcourt style that reined in his players. This year, he loosened up and allowed his team to run with the likes of Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad, and Jordan Adams. The result was a 25-10 record and a Pac-12 title.
But Howland also endured some issues inside his own locker room. Two players, Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith, left the program after the start of the season — sending the total to 11 players in the last four years to transfer from the program under Howland’s watch.
Howland also was a target of one of UCLA's most famous alumni — Bill Walton.
Walton, a TV commentator, openly mocked the sparse crowds at Pauley Pavilion and said his solution to fill the seats was, "Play better basketball ... better style."
Asked if it were the players' fault, Walton said flatly, "It's the coach."
For his part, Howland said after Friday's loss, ''I'm really proud of this group of kids, and I'm really indebted to them for the great season they provided.''
Fox Sports West's Rahshaun Haylock and The Associated Press contributed to this report.