UCLA basketball, the program that has set the standard for success in the world of college basketball, has been anything but successful with Steve Alford in the leadership role.
On June 4, 2010, the architect of UCLA basketball‘s 10 national championships spanning from 1962-1975, John R. Wooden, died at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He was 99 years old.
At that time, Ben Howland was the head coach of the Bruins, a role he coveted as his “dream job”. Early in his tenure, Howland was asked what he would do if Wooden wanted to coach again and Howland said he would step aside and let the legendary coach take over, albeit in a very joking manner. It was good times around Westwood with the changing of the guard and it looked to stay that way.
Howland was brought in to change the culture of UCLA basketball after Steve Lavin failed to live up to the championship standards of his predecessor, Jim Harrick (the only other coach to raise a banner with the Bruins outside of Wooden).
Howland made very effective changes in his first five years, making UCLA’s defense something to be feared. By year 3, he had them in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game. In the next two years, he would go to the Final Four, making it three consecutive seasons that he achieved that feat, something that had not been been since Wooden ran things in Westwood. It appeared as though things were going back to the UCLA way… until they weren’t.
Howland was the last UCLA coach that Wooden saw in the role he made famous. After Wooden’s death, in the next three (and final) seasons, Howland went 23-11 (NCAA Tournament Round of 32 exit), 19-14 (no NCAA Tournament) and 25-10 (Pac-12 Champions and a Round of 64 exit).
The coach never made it back to the Final Four (or past the Round of 32 for that matter). After a series of bad decision on the recruiting trail, clashes with players, several notable legal troubles with his players and “burning bridges” with local recruiting pipelines, as well as a shocking expose about his reign over the program, Howland was done. He lost his players, he lost the program, he lost the fanbase and finally lost the Athletic Department..