Matt Takimoto, Addicted to Quack - What stuck out to me watching Ben Howland's teams play was how little they seemed to give a shit about actually playing and winning a basketball game. His tenure was littered with unrest and underachievement. So yes, it was the right call. The right hire wouldn't necessarily be a name hire, but a hire that could inject energy into the program and bring some hustle to the recruiting trail. UCLA hiring Shaka Smart would scare the hell out of me.
Jack Follman, Pacific Takes: Yes, if Howland wasn't going to be able to get UCLA back to being a serious national contender this season, when was we? Howland's previous great successes had given him about four or five years of credit that I think finally expired. Expectations are sky high at UCLA, as they should be, and even though he basically rebuilt the program in the mid-2000s, it had peaked and it was time to go in another direction.
As for realistic guys that they could hire, it might seem at first that there aren't a bunch of great candidates out there, but it is UCLA, so I would have to think a lot of guys who you wouldn't think would be interesting in moving jobs would have to listen if they get the call. Billy Donovan might be a pipe dream, but might he want to get out of Florida having basically already attained a peak there that he almost assuredly will never be able to live up to again?
NorCalNick, California Golden Blogs: One could reasonably argue that Ben Howland has been the 2nd most successful UCLA coach since Wooden, or even the most successful depending on your views regarding Jim Harrick's exit. For all the blather, Howland isn't an awful coach. You only get rid of him if you believe that your program can do better.
Can UCLA do better? It's possible. It's also possible that they strike out on big name hires, and bring in a 2nd choice candidate who can't deal with a shallow roster ravaged by transfers, graduations and early NBA entries. UCLA as a concept is an attractive job. UCLA as a current reality, with a weird roster and an angry fanbase, is not nearly so desirable.
Andy Wooldridge, Building The Dam: It might have become an unavoidable move, given the impatience of the fan base that isn't filling up Pauley. And I didn't see things looking much different going forward under Howland.
I'll be interested in seeing who they get to replace him though, as most of the people the unrealistic fan base would accept aren't going to take the job, and most of the people who will take it they don't want.
Unless Dan Guerrero has been authorized to spend a lot more money than UCLA has historically been willing to, its going to be very tough to convince top coaches to leave what is on balance a better situation with a better shot at making a deep tournament run. More likely, the Bruins will wind up with another Jim Mora type hire, which could work out in the long run, but not until after being roundly questioned, if not out-right criticized.
Adam Butler, Pac Hoops - This was seemingly a long time coming. I don't love the move but it seemed to be the move that had to happen. Howland is a great coach he just might not be the right coach at UCLA. He managed his way through the post-Lavin years because he wasn't Lavin. And then I suppose everything else fell into place. UCLA is a very tough place to be the coach as there a anually high expectations and what seems like little support in fulfilling them. Their next coach will have to be his own man and allowed to be such. You're going to hear lots of big names tossed around and whoever they land on is going to have to be the kind of guy who wants this job and this responsibility. And is supported.