The curtain seems to be calling.
Ben Howland's time at UCLA has been pretty remarkable. He led the Bruins back to the promised land and the brink of national importance. He took three teams to the Final Four and sent a dozen players to the NBA. It looked like the good times were back in UCLA.
Oh how far away those good times feel now.
Five seasons after UCLA marched to their third consecutive trip to the last weekend of a college basketball season, the Bruins dropped another embarrassing out-of-conference matchup. This time, the loss came to listless Cal Poly, a team that was predicted to finish ninth. IN THE BIG WEST. This comes mere weeks after nearly falling to UC Irvine, and is the fourth loss in as many years to a remarkably inferior opponent (Loyola Marymount last year, Montana the year before, Fullerton the year before that). These are moody times for Bruins fans, who have to be sick of getting embarrassed on their home court year after year before the real fight for the tournament begins.
It doesn't figure to get any easier for Howland. Texas and San Diego State are coming right up. Missouri is headed to Pauley after Christmas, and then come the Bay Area schools. Five of the final seven games on their conference schedule are on the road, a place where the Bruins have bumbled away winnable contests.
At this point, everyone is fed up. UCLA has a large big man rotation that somehow can't defend or get easy buckets. The Bruins have excellent perimeter talent, but can't seem to create shots well enough for other players. And UCLA's point guard situation is pretty dire, making the offense even more impossible to execute.
Simply put, the characteristics that used to typify Howland's most successful teams are nowhere to be found on his current squads. The defense, the playmaking, the team cohesion, and the chemistry on the court just isn't anywhere to be found. UCLA looks like a soft, finesse team that struggles to defend, struggles to move the basketball, and is generally capable of being beaten by anyone. The Bruins faithful seem to have hit their breaking point and are tuning out hoops (at UCLA!). The presence of all those empty seats will force UCLA to seriously reconsider the possibilities of bringing Howland back.
Unless Howland can turn UCLA around in these next few weeks, he'll end up taking many curtain calls in 2012.
SB Nation snippet
- Ben said Norman Powell had no idea what the score of the game was when he fouled the Cal Poly player in their last possession. So neither Ben nor anyone from his staff didn't bother to communicate with the players about in-game situations. LOLz
- Ben called his players "unathletic," which is rather amusing (and kind of unbelievable) after all the hype he built up around his "number 1 recruiting class. He then said that the team will need to play zone, which of course is repeat of the same song and dance of last four seasons when he brought an unathletic team into regular season without having them practice zone.