UCLA fired Ben Howland Sunday night, to the surprise of nobody. I’m not going to attempt to debate the merits of Howland – title game, Final 4, Final 4 from 2006-2008 – but if you’ve been reading this site for two years, know know he’s been in trouble.
Who’s getting the job? And more importantly, does this mean USC is getting UCLA’s leftovers?
1) Little Brother USC is in a brutal spot. Nobody would take the USC gig over the UCLA job. It’s not happening. So when UCLA AD Dan Guerrero calls Shaka Smart, Buzz Williams and Tommy Amaker this week, USC AD Pat Haden and his search firm would be wise to look in a completely different direction – guys like Andy Enfield of Florida Gulf Coast, Larry Eustachy of Colorado State, and even Rick Byrd of Belmont.
2) Why didn’t I mention Brad Stevens? He loses his leading scorer and his 7-foot center to graduation, and the recruiting class (so far) is nothing special. My guess is that he’s going nowhere. Everyone who has an opening calls him, and by all accounts he’s never even gotten to the serious interview stage. Would UCLA be different?
3) There’s a major rebuilding project to be had at UCLA, as the roster doesn’t have much talent (especially if Jordan Adams transfers) and there needs to be significant bridges re-built after Howland torched them in recent years.
4) Ben Howland to USC? Just say no, people. If your high school nemesis dumped his girlfriend, would you try to start dating her? Of course not.
5) Shaka Smart to UCLA? Minnesota fans have thought for weeks that the Gophers have a shot at him because the school hired his former Athletic Director last April. What if new VCU AD Ed McLaughlin doesn’t want to back up the brinks for another extension? It’ll be easy to tell if Smart is in play for the Bruins based on what happens before the Sweet 16. The smart move? Extend him. Pay him more. Keep VCU on the hoops map. If they don’t, well …
6) Buzz Williams has done wonders at Marquette, and he doesn’t get along with his AD. Anyone who has talked to him says he wants the Texas job, but the Longhorns aren’t firing Rick Barnes.
Keeping in mind these situations are fluid, here are my guesses today:
UCLA – Mike Brown, formerly of the Cavs and Lakers. Yes, I really do see it happening. Hey, I took LeBron to the Finals!
USC – Larry Eustachy, Colorado State.