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Opinions abound about UCLA's coaching hire; here are three:

The Times' Chris Dufresne and two writers from the Southeast weigh in on whom the Bruins should pursue as a potential replacement for the fired Ben Howland.

March 26, 2013|By Mike Hiserman
  • Florida Gulf Coast University Coach Andy Enfield smiles during a game with San Diego State University Aztecs in the NCAA tournament.
Florida Gulf Coast University Coach Andy Enfield smiles during a game with… (Rob Carr / Getty Images )

It's an age-old question in basketball, from the pickup courts to the NBA: Who's got next?

That's certainly the question over at UCLA, where there has been no shortage of speculation about who will replace Ben Howland as basketball coach.

Some Bruins fans can't seem to understand why the likes of Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Florida's Billy Donovan aren't lining up for the job. Or maybe that Coach K guy.

Others are championing champions from the mid-major ranks such as Gonzaga's Mark Few, Butler's Brad Stevens or Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart.

Here are a couple of thoughts from college basketball writers around the country, starting right here in Los Angeles with this from The Times' Chris Dufresne:

"UCLA needs to think outside the three-point line and not be afraid to hire someone who does not fit the overrated UCLA 'mold.' I would forget Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens and go after Andy Enfield of Florida Gulf Coast University.

"Forget about the 'FGCU' on the shirts and watch how the Eagles play. They fly up and down the court but are also well-coached. In fact, Enfield's effort against Georgetown was one of the best single-game coaching jobs in NCAA history.

"Here's the key component: Many coaches are scared off by the cost of living in L.A. and the Hollywood culture. That won't be a problem for Enfield, who made millions on Wall Street before he pursued his passion for coaching. His wife is a former model who would light up the scoreboard, so to speak, and you could see this power couple walking comfortably down Rodeo Drive with their gourmet coffees and souped-up baby stroller as they make their way toward an oxygen bar.

"Enfield could be the Pat Riley of Westwood, the 'Power Broker of Pauley' . . . Enfield would represent the new UCLA model: courtside cool and visible by everyone."

From David Teel of the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press:

"UCLA's central-casting coach is no stranger to exaggerated expectations. He understands them. Most important, he embraces them. Three Final Fours but no banner in 10 years like Ben Howland? Not good enough. Befitting the Hollywood aura, the ideal candidate is an A-list personality with an oversized ego, designer wardrobe and unassailable recruiting chops.

"Translation: He's John Calipari, who's taken Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky to the Final Four, the latter to last season's national championship.

"But Calipari wouldn't bail on the bluegrass for L.A.'s bright lights . . . would he? Bruins Athletic Director Dan Guerrero ought to inquire, and when told no, he then can scan his list, paper or mental, for the next best thing.

"VCU's Shaka Smart? Butler's Brad Stevens? Like Calipari, they may not be interested."

And this from Iliana Limón Romero of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel:

"There is no shortage of energetic and successful coaches at relatively lower-profile schools, but many of them are shunning the opportunities at what were once perceived to be elite jobs because they recognize the higher expectations and lack of job security. It sure seems as though VCU's Shaka Smart, Butler's Brad Stevens, Gonzaga's Mark Few and New Mexico's Steve Alford are staying put.

"Florida Gulf Coast's Andy Enfield is one of the hottest coaches this March and certainly wouldn't be a bad choice.

"UCLA also could have a good shot at plucking away Southeastern Conference coaches who have recruited relatively well and coached successful programs. Before Smart thrived at VCU, Anthony Grant led the team to an upset of Duke. He boasts a .623 winning percentage at Alabama. Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy also has done well, turning in a .639 career winning percentage."

"Of course, UCLA isn't the only major university in L.A. looking for a basketball coach. There is also an opening at USC, where the Trojans are seeking an experienced leader with an impressive NCAA tournament pedigree.

"And wouldn't you know, a coach fitting that bill just became available — a guy who has won more than 400 college games, taken all three programs he's led to the NCAA tournament and guided three teams to the Final Four, all without ever running afoul of the NCAA:

"Ben Howland."

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

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