Here at Go Joe Bruin, I’ve already highlighted an argument against Ben Howland staying for another year after this Sports Illustrated mess occurred. We’ve even given you guys another chance to vote on whether Howland should stay or not. Currently, the poll is in a deadlock.
The argument for Howland is an interesting one; that Reeves Nelson was the person who was behind any and all wrong-doing at UCLA, and that Howland appeased him in every way possible. Reeves is a jerk, to be sure, but certain allegations — such as pissing on Tyler Honeycutt’s clothes, injuring other players, and giving teammates black eyes — are currently being disputed by Nelson and his lawyer.
That’s right, Nelson and his lawyer are saying that most of this stuff is not true. From ESPN.com:
“You couldn’t have taken a harder swipe at the young man’s reputation,” said Keith Fink, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who is representing Nelson. “He all out says the guy is a criminal. He criminally stalked and assaulted players. And he tries to pinpoint six or seven instances.”
Fink said he has text messages from each of those players denying the incidents.
One from Keefe “categorically says that he told the reporter that he did not believe that Reeves tried to hurt him,” Fink said. “Mike Moser’s text message says that reporter made some s— up there. He never tried to fight me. Drew Gordon says LMAO, laugh my butt off, I would beat your butt if you were giving me a black eye. His statement: He never gave me a black eye.”
Coach Ben Howland, in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, said that he never witnessed any players intentionally injuring others and that the depiction of players assaulting one another was a false allegation. He suggested that the altercations stemmed from hard fouls during practice that are common in many competitive environments.
“Never was there any — during my watching and being there for every minute of every practice — an assault where I felt like it was prudent that there was some kind of assault going on,” Howland said. “Often times in the heat of battle elbows are flying or guys are being physical. A cheap shot is different than a closed fist punched in someone’s face or directed at someone.”
If Nelson, his lawyer, and Ben Howland are all correct, this whole saga might’ve just been flipped on its side. Because people who take things for face value without questioning such allegations are running with the story and going full-on with a smear campaign because that’s just what those kind of people do.
All of a sudden, the rhetoric changes. We’re still discussing Ben Howland’s fate, but giving him another year might not seem like a bad idea. Of course, this is based off the premise that none of these allegations are true and that former UCLA players left for reasons besides Howland’s abrasiveness or Reeves Nelson’s idiocy. (Perhaps to get away from having little to no minutes, but still.)
Personally? Howland still needs to be let go (for the reasons that personality is static and pervasive, and Howland’s personality is still not one fit to relate to his players), but not with the vitriol we would have sent him out with if he did sit idly by while Nelson beat the living crap out of his teammates.
Of course, I have no idea what to believe because, if we’re being honest, we have no idea what went on behind closed doors. UCLA is incredibly secretive and makes sure everyone is kept guessing. Some transparency is needed, and Dan Guerrero’s inability to show some transparency is shocking, and he’ll need to go regardless of what happens.
Things are rough here in Westwood. Nothing will get figured out for a while, and deciding time for Howland and Guerrero’s stay might be long gone by the time the courts even hear the case.
But goodness, it’d be nice if we can fire Ben Howland while still respecting him and leaving everything on good terms, wouldn’t it?
(Except for bruinsnation.com, which would rather have everyone burn in Hell.)