Despite Ben Howland’s success at UCLA, including three consecutive final fours, one championship appearance, many NBA draft picks, and a solid 211-99 record at UCLA, there is a groundswell of support for the Fire Ben Howland campaign.
At UCLA, expectations are sky high ever year and memories are short. The Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook days are behind us and instead UCLA fans are relying on soft twins who play zero defense, a fifth year senior who couldn’t cut it at North Carolina, and a trio of freshman to carry the team.
In order to save his job, Ben Howland will have to spark a major turnaround and get the Bruins back on track. To jumpstart the Bruins, Coach Howland will have to adjust and avoid the critical mistakes that got the Bruins off to a disappointing 6-3 start in the first place.
Here are three mistakes Ben Howland has made this season and will have to avoid if he wants to remain employed:
1. Overreliance on the Wear twins- Coach Howland loves the skill that the twins display at times and feels they are “reliable.” The problem with this logic is that, although reliable, they have no upside. They are defensive liabilities, inconsistent scorers, and average rebounders. With Josh Smith now departed from the team, there aren’t many other options for Howland, though. Freshman Tony Parker has battled injuries and foul trouble. As the season goes on, Howland will need to go smaller, with Kyle Anderson getting more time at the 4 and less time for both David and Travis Wear.
2. Finding a role for Kyle Anderson- Although many Bruin fans are clamoring for Anderson to be the starting point guard, he is more needed at forward. His rebounding has been vital and Larry Drew II, although not spectacular in any way, has been solid at point guard. Finding a way to utilize Anderson’s unique talents has proven difficult for Howland thus far. Anderson is a point guard by nature and has struggled finding his role off the ball. In order to utilize both Anderson and Drew effectively, Coach Howland needs to get the team more transition opportunities. A three man fastbreak with Drew, Anderson, and Shabazz Muhammad is potentially very potent.
3. Recruiting mishaps- Although everyone has certainly been very excited about the top ranked recruiting class Ben Howland brought in this year, there have been errors. This mistake by Howland goes back several years. Singling out individual players who may or may not have been the type of recruits needed is unnecessary, but rather we will point to the style of play. When Coach Howland was most successful at UCLA, he had athletic, high energy big men, who struggled at times offensively, but were the keys to the stifling Bruin defense. With the exception of Kevin Love, the ’06-’08 Bruins had blue collar, high energy guys who received little attention. Gone are the days of Alfred Aboya, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Lorenzo Mata-Real. Ben Howland is a coach with a defensive first philosophy and a strong belief in tough, man-to-man defense. UCLA has been forced to play zone, against Howland’s wishes, because of lack of interior defense and athleticism.