Ben Howland took the high road as he left Westwood on Monday, one day after being fired from his post at UCLA. He doesn’t get into much detail as to why he was shown the door after losing to Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but when asked why his first five years at UCLA — which included three Final Four appearances — were better than his last five, he gets a little salty, if only for a brief second.
Ben Howland joined Fox Sports Radio with Petros and Money to discuss showing gratitude after being fired from UCLA, the final season he had with the Bruins, if one-and-done players did him in, why his early years at UCLA were better than his more recent campaigns and if the expectations at UCLA are unrealistic.
Is there really just gratitude all around for these last 10 years at UCLA or is it just about saying and doing what’s right in this moment?:
“I’m really, really thankful for being given the opportunity to be the coach here at UCLA. I really thought it was important to express that and thank everyone who has helped make this program so successful over my tenure. I’m really proud of what we accomplished during my time here and will always feel good about it.”
What’s it like coaching when you are questioned about your future after seemingly every game?:
“We had a great year. We won the Pac-12 championship, so something must have gone well. I felt really good. … We had an unfortunate break in terms of losing arguably our best all-around player … in the last play of the game in our third win of the season over Arizona in the conference tournament, but that’s part of the game.”
On the success he had in his first five years compared to his last five and the impact one-and-done players had on that:
“I don’t think so. We had some really good players during my entire tenure, all the way through, including this year. … We had a lot of good players. The thing that continues to evolve is the NBA and how that continues to, I think, drive so much of what everybody’s trying to do. They’re all trying to get there, and I understand that. We’ve had kids leave early and make a mistake and really hurt their careers, but I really feel good about all the players I coached here. … This program is always going to be great and I’m just glad to have been a part of it.”
What did they tell you as to why you aren’t coaching at UCLA anymore?:
“Our conversation that I had with Dan Guerrero, my boss, the athletic director, was yesterday afternoon and I’m just keeping that personal, between Dan and I.”
What did change between your early years and the more recent seasons?:
“Why didn’t we go to more Final Fours? We only went to three. My bad. No, it’s a very, very competitive, tough business. And there’s a lot of complexity to everything that goes on in running a program. We had some really good players here over my tenure. … And I feel good about how I’m leaving. We’re leaving winning 25 games and with a championship, so that I think spells good things to come for the next coach and next year’s team.”
Are the expectations that come with the UCLA job unrealistic?:
“I’m not sure that I can answer that fairly, because who’s expectations are we talking about? … Hey, the university decides what is best for the university and I respect that. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be here and I’m excited about the future. I’m looking forward to my next chapter and my next opportunity to coach again.”