Howland responds to Bill Walton’s criticism

UCLA great Bill Walton has outwardly expressed his dislike for Ben Howland as UCLA’s head coach.

On Thursday night in UCLA’s 59-57 win over Washington, he didn’t pull any punches criticizing Howland, stopping just shy of saying the UCLA head coach should be fired.

In his work as an analyst on the Bruins nationally televised game on Thursday night, Walton continuously criticized the low attendance at the new Pauley Pavilion. He was asked how to fix that issue. Walton said a better style of basketball was required to fix the attendance.

Walton then was asked if that responsibility fell on the coaches or players?

“The coach,” Walton said.

Asked if he was a fan of Howland, Walton responded “No.”

He went on to say, “If I were in charge, things would be different.”

Howland heard about Walton’s comments and had the opportunity to address it during a Friday afternoon teleconference.

“He’s been critical in all the games he’s done of ours this year,” Howland said. “As a broadcaster and as an analyst (and) announcer, that’s his job and it’s perfectly his right to be critical.

“For me, Bill is one of the greatest players in the history of college basketball. He holds such a special place in UCLA basketball lore that I just take it and try to do the job to the best of my ability.”

After last night’s win, UCLA is tied for second place and just one game behind conference leader Arizona in the Pac-12 Standings.

Howland is trying to guide the Bruins back to the NCAA Tournament after staying home last year and missing the tournament for the second time in three years.

Since making it to three straight Final Fours from 2006-08, the Bruins have had just two 20-win seasons and have failed to win a conference title.

It’s a far cry from the glory years Walton enjoyed playing under legendary coach John Wooden. Walton went 86-4 during his three seasons at UCLA and won two national titles.  

“Bill was 60-0 his first two years,” Howland said. “His reference point is pretty special and I understand that. What they had here and what they did, I think, would be hard to see happen again in the history of college basketball and they’re expectations are so high, I get it and that’s part of the reason that makes UCLA special.

“Obviously, he feels how he feels about me and there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Howland and the Bruins return to action on Saturday night when they host Washington State at 7 p.m.