UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero stopped short of guaranteeing that Bruins’ basketball coach Ben Howland will return next season in the wake of allegations made by a Sports Illustrated story.
The article painted a picture of a program where players used drugs and fought with each other in practice, as well as Howland giving preferential treatment that led to abuse by one player, Reeves Nelson.
Nelson was kicked off the team in December.
“Ben has been with me nine years. This is a bump in the road and we’ll talk through things as they relate to the issues,” Guerrero said. “That’s where I want to leave it at this point.”
Guerrero said he would meet with Howland after the season ends.
Guerrero would not address the incidents related in the story individually, citing privacy laws, but he did say that there has been a shift in recruiting since UCLA went to three consecutive Final Fours under Howland.
“You look at the success of our team during the early part of Ben’s tenure and it was built on a solid foundation, commensurate with Ben’s coaching philosophy,” Guerrero said. “Great kids with great character and hard workers. … The past several years, we have broken away from that in a large part. Ben has admitted he made mistakes in evaluation, whether evaluating talent or character.”
“That being said, I like the path we're going on," Guerrero added. "We’re talking about a few isolated incidents. We’re not talking about the entire program.”
Still, Guerrero refused to commit to retaining Howland. He said that the university would have to do “some due diligence” in regards to the issues in the basketball program.
“Before I comment on the long-term future, those have to be looked at,” Guerrero said.
Chancellor Gene Block, on the other hand, said he was committed to Guerrero.
“I have an athletic director I have faith in,” Block said. “We’re aware of the issues. We meet regularly.”
When asked if Guerrero would be retained, Block said, “I look forward to having Dan [back]. I have great confidence in Dan. We’re working through it together.”
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