UCLA has informed Ben Howland that it is firing him as coach, with an announcement expected in the next 48 hours, Yahoo reports.
Howland could never follow up on his initial success when he was hired in 2003 and, five years after the school’s third consecutive Final Four appearance, he is out. Although the Bruins won the Pac-13 regular-season title this season, they lost badly, 83-63, to Minnesota in a first-round NCAA tournament game Friday night. The Bruins have been unable to last longer than the tourney’s first weekend for the last five years.
Not that there was much doubt, but the Bruins’ effort Friday night made Howland’s departure a certainty, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes.
Say what you want about the embattled leader of the Bruins’ sixth-seeded team, but Howland deserved better than Friday’s 83-63 loss to 11th-seeded Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
If his players cared, they didn’t show it. If his players were still listening to him, it wasn’t evident. Once embraced by a UCLA community that truly believed he was leading them back to the days of Wooden, Howland spent his probable final game shouting into nothing, drawing up plays for nobody, very much alone.
At the bitterest of end, in a postgame news conference in front of only a handful of reporters, the man who has answered every question for 10 years couldn’t bring himself to respond to the final one.
“Do you think you’ve coached your last game as UCLA coach?” he was asked.
“No comment,” he said.
Dan Guerrero, UCLA athletic director, also refused comment, but the message seems clear.
And growing clearer by the moment.