When Bill Walton, one of the greatest alums in UCLA history speaks out against you, it could certainly be a sign that your days are numbered.
Apparently that number reached it’s breaking point on Saturday with Ben Howland being relieved of his duties as UCLA’s head coach, according to multiple reports.
UCLA is denying the reports, saying in a statement Saturday night, “Contrary to multiple media reports this evening, UCLA has not fired men’s basketball coach Ben Howland.”
In February, during a nationally televised game, Walton was critical of Howland, saying “If I were in charge, things would be different.”
It gave Howland detractors the fuel they needed to rev up the “Fire Howland” bandwagon.
Walton played in an era where losses were few and far in between. In his three seasons, he won two national titles. Those were the glory days under the late John Wooden.
Somehow, someway UCLA fans yearn to get back to that.
Whether they accomplish that or not remains to be seen.
One thing’s for sure, with Howland likely no longer in the fold, it will be different.
This season, Howland grew accustomed to life on the hot seat. When approached by Sports Illustrated about Howland’s job status following Friday’s season ending loss to Minnesota, athletic director Dan Guerrero offered “We’ll take stock in the next couple of days and talk like we always do with all coaches.”
Howland won 68.5 percent of his games in 10 seasons at UCLA. That wasn’t good enough.
He made it to the NCAA tournament seven times and won four regular season conference championships. That wasn’t good enough.
His pinnacle at UCLA was reaching three consecutive Final Fours.
That, too, wasn’t good enough.
Howland also made a name for himself for getting his players ready for the NBA but in the end, that doesn’t equal wins.
The only banners hanging in the rafters of the new Pauley Pavilion are a result of national championships. Of the 11 such banners currently hanging, Howland was responsible for none.
The closest he came to hanging a banner of his own was a 73-57 loss in the NCAA championship game to Florida in 2006.
UCLA fans also became disgruntled with his style of play. Unlike his days at Northern Arizona where his teams were three point shooting machines, in Westwood he became known as a stickler for half court sets. Despite having talented athletes at his disposal, he was reluctant to allow them to run up and down the floor.
That changed this season when he loosened up his reins and required his team to run with the likes of Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad, and Jordan Adams.
It worked. It resulted in a regular season Pac-12 championship. Ironically enough, toward the end of the season, his team was down to an eight- then seven-man rotation and you wonder if the old, half court Howland would have served them well.
If Howland wasn’t getting criticized for allowing his players to play free, he was being criticized for them leaving the program.
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.