Ben Howland was fired Sunday, ending the longest tenure for a Bruins coach… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
It's not Ben Howland's fault. Put the blame on UCLA and the NBA. The UCLA basketball program is nothing more than a puppy mill for the NBA. If Alcindor, Goodrich, Walton, Hazzard and Wilkes had left the Bruins after their first or second year during the Wooden era, there would have been very few championships, if any.
How many starting seniors were on the current team? Every year UCLA goes out of its way to recruit freshmen for what I call their JV (Just Visiting) team, knowing well that they will leap to the NBA the next year. Thanks Ben, you did a great job, especially having to rebuild all over again every single year.
Three Final Fours couldn't save Ben Howland's job because of his dismal NCAA tournament record in the other seven seasons: two second-round losses by an average of 14 points, two first-round losses by an average of 16 points and three times missing the tournament entirely.
Ben Howland is a great coach. For another place, another time. Hard-hat, lunch pail-carrying Pittsburgh is perfect for his personality and style. Blame the players for sure, but also blame the sideline-scowling, unbending coach for not recognizing his style doesn't work in Hollywood. Howland was a square peg in a round hole and will succeed somewhere with a mid-major in a small-town setting.
How many nostalgic boosters does it take to replenish the $3.5 million UCLA just wasted tossing aside a class act like Ben Howland? In this season, Howland once again led the team to a conference title, and in 10 seasons, he brought the Bruins to the Final Four three times and a championship game. During Wooden's first 15 seasons at UCLA, the Bruins made it to the Final Four only once and lost. The curse of unrealistic expectations and impatience is not limited to today's one-and-done basketball superstars — UCLA suffers from the same, and has since 1975.
A noble effort, and that's no bull
On behalf of Wilt Chamberlain, Jim Cleamons, Leroy Ellis, Keith Erickson, Gail Goodrich, Happy Hairston, Jim McMillian, Pat Riley (maybe?), Flynn Robinson, John Trapp, Jerry West, Coach Bill Sharman and Lakers fans everywhere, we extend a heartfelt "thank you" to the Chicago Bulls for ending the run of Riley's Miami Heat at the 1971-72 Lakers' 33-game winning streak and preserving this "unbreakable" record. Your performance Wednesday was "UnbelievaBull."
Ben Bolch writes about how the Lakers' 33-game win streak during the 1971-72 season was more difficult to achieve than the present-day Miami Heat streak. He cites the tough travel regimen back then, with the Lakers having to rough it on commercial flights, even sometimes having to carry their own basketballs. And there were more back-to-back games than now. He then denigrates the current Miami streak by citing their "perks of charter flights and more breaks between games." What he conveniently leaves out of his article is the fact that when the Lakers set their streak, there was another pro league called the ABA, with as formidable a talent pool as the NBA. Players like Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore, Rick Barry, Dan Issel and Charlie Scott. It makes me wonder how long that Lakers streak would have lasted if those guys were playing against them instead of in a different league.
Gary H. Miller
Lakers' bench issuesinclude coaching
Mike D'Antoni says that the Lakers are not at a championship level. Well, neither is their coach. Before his foot injury, Pau Gasol finally regained his dominating form as a strong sixth man. This also strengthened their bench. The Lakers even beat Oklahoma City during that stretch. The starting five, including Earl Clark, have developed valuable chemistry. Why start Gasol now and make everyone learn a new rotation and substitution pattern at the end of the season?
As a die-hard Laker fan, it pains me to witness the excuse for a team that we are watching. They have no heart, no desire, no pride in themselves as a team. What a shame! What a waste ! The players seem like they are content to just show up and collect their paychecks. The coaching staff is clueless! Fans expect more and deserve better.
Kelvin D. Filer
Doubling the Clippers' pressure
Dallas exposed the Clippers' soft underbelly: Double team Chris Paul during the last three minutes of the game because everyone else is afraid to shoot. CP3, please do not waste your career with the Clippers; Pau Gasol will soon be gone and you are welcome to take all of his money with the Lakers. Believe me, you have someone across town who is not afraid to shoot down the stretch!!
Jumping through hoops at USC
With the firing of Ben Howland at UCLA along with the release of Minnesota's Tubby Smith, two excellent and experienced coaches are available. USC, a couple of candidates to consider?
Tim Floyd reportedly has interest in the USC basketball vacancy and I'd be in favor of the former Trojans coach returning, but this time, please hold the Mayo.
Why the grave concern over Tiger?
For those geniuses who would bury Tiger Woods, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated. Oh by the way, Woods is only 37. Vijay Singh won 22 times on the PGA Tour after turning 40.
Rodney K. Boswell
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