UCLA basketball has been frustrating as of late. The Bruins are coming off a four-year period filled with early bounces from the NCAA tourney and missing the oft-maligned NIT.
And while UCLA definitely lays claim to the most prestigious basketball program in the country, the years since John Wooden have been largely successful but overall, maddening.
Which is why I’m convinced UCLA has a “John Wooden” curse placed upon it.
We know, we know: UCLA won a national title in 1995 under Jim Harrick and behind a magical 32-1 season, often up there with one of the greatest UCLA basketball seasons of all time.
But what happened to Harrick shortly after this — before he could establish himself as an elite coach on par with current guys like Mike Krzyzewski — was damning, for this program.
Passive UCLA hoops fans know the story. Harrick was released from UCLA for violations in that the NCAA exonerated him for later.
The NCAA forgave a coach, likely because it felt the school was too harsh on him for minor violations. This actually happened, guys.
Since then, UCLA has yet to hang a new banner at Pauley. UCLA has failed for 17 years to bring back a national championship.
And although, sure, the Bruins have had their fair share of Final Fours and (ugh) Sweet Sixteen appearances during this time, UCLA’s chances at another national title have been crushed by superior teams and small mistakes in coaching.
Of course, many thought this would change after 2008, when the Bruins nabbed the top recruiting class in the country, with Jrue Holiday underachieving like hell before jamming for the NBA after a year, Malcolm Lee was terribly misused, Jerime Anderson was inconsistent and was bumped out of the starting line-up by Lazeric Jones, Drew Gordon transferred and did well at New Mexico and J’Mison Morgan decided to Josh Smith his way through UCLA and show up unfit and overweight.
Thus began the four-year downward spiral for the Bruins. Howland’s teams have largely underachieved and the fall of this once-great program has been painful to watch.
Of course, 2012 has shown us that there is hope, indeed, for this program to lift itself up under Howland’s tutelage. With UCLA bringing in another top-ranked recruiting class — with Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams highlighting the group — things are starting to look up.
Well, were starting to look up.
Because, in contrary to earlier reports, all-world-potential center Josh Smith is still largely unfit to play basketball for extended periods of times, Shabazz Muhammad could be ineligible for the 2012-13 basketball season due to NCAA recruiting violations, and Tony Parker has a lingering hamstring injury that could ruin his freshman season.
I’m not the superstitious type, mind you, but when this program has so much to offer, and when this team in particular is now dripping with talent, it’s hard to ignore all the awful things that have happened to this program since Wooden left and since Harrick was stupidly forced out of the program.
We know, Final Fours are nothing to scoff at, and we should be proud that our team has gotten that far.
But it’s been 17 years since our last national title, for chrissakes. UCLA eats national titles for breakfast, and in the basketball realm, UCLA fans have become insatiably hungry, and deservedly so.
So while some may not believe in curses, it’s something to consider, and possibly joke about as we cry endlessly.
What do you think, though? Is UCLA basketball cursed?