UCLA’s road-trip MVP goes to … the bus driver?
There are plenty of good things to take away from No. 24 UCLA’s most recent road trip.
Coach Ben Howland’s Bruins played their first two true road games of the season and came away with wins improving to 4-0 in Pac-12 play.
They continued their stellar defensive play, holding Utah under 40 percent shooting.
Colorado shot 43 percent from the field, which was the first time a UCLA opponent broke the 40 percent barrier in four games. They won at Utah despite star freshman Shabazz Muhammad having the worst game of his career. Travis Wear continued his stellar play with a career-high 23 points in Boulder, leading to the Bruins re-emergence in the AP Top 25.
There is no shortage of great moments to choose from, but when expressing the most impressive performance of the trip, Howland couldn’t stop raving about … the bus driver in Utah?
Yes. The bus driver in Utah.
As the team prepared to head to the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City a snowstorm broke out causing a great deal of traffic. Players feared they weren’t going to make it to the game in time.
“That was an unbelievable deal,” Howland said Monday in an appearance on FOX Sports Radio’s Petros And Money Show.
Thanks to an assist from assistant coach Scott Garson, who formerly was an assistant at Utah under the late Rick Majerus, the bus driver took an alternate route to get to the arena in an attempt to avoid traffic. That’s when he proved his worth.
“Our bus driver is going up this hill and if he slows down at all we’re going to slide back down it,” Howland said. “So he’s continuing to gun it knowing that there’s a truck right next to him, it’s a smaller like Nissan truck that’s doing the same thing, and he may slide back and hit us but (our bus driver) knows if he doesn’t go for it we’re going to be stuck. So he goes for it. We both make it. Unbelievable play!”
The three-mile trip from the hotel to the arena took 40 minutes with the Bruins arriving to the arena about an hour before tip-off. Others didn’t have such luck. The officials didn’t make it until 30 minutes before the game. While the TV announcers, who were making the same three-mile trip as the Bruins, needed to take a tram to get up the hill. It took them 90 minutes as they barely made it to the arena 20 minutes before game time.
Howland resisted drawing up instructions for the bus driver on the white board but had no idea his most important coaching job of the night would come before tip-off.
“We were coaching him,” Howland said describing his actions as the bus driver tried to make it up the hill. “Let’s go for it!
“I told him after the game that I gave him the MVP award.”
Howland doesn’t want his star bus driver to be a one-and-done. He’s already called dibs for the next trip to Utah.
“We’ll request him for next year,” Howland said.