Mar 21, 2015; Louisville, KY, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Kory Alford (2) and UCLA Bruins guard David Brown (13) react after the game against the UAB Blazers in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at KFC Yum! Center. UCLA wins 92-75. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
I can remember watching Ben Howland’s Final Four runs in the mid-2000s, but I’d be lying if I said I could remember their style of play or what kind of coach he was. Truth is, I don’t pay much attention to Pac-12 basketball because it’s hardly ever on TV. So why not go straight to the guys who know a thing our two about UCLA at Go Joe Bruin, and ask them a few questions.
1. Why did UCLA part ways with Ben Howland?
"How much times do you have?Seriously though, I’ll give the short, short version. After Ben Howland took UCLA to their third straight Final Four, he changed his approach to coaching the Bruins. Though he was known for finding and developing three and four-star recruits, it was thought that he could not get a championship unless he had the best players, namely talented five-star speedsters.He changed his approach to recruiting and instead of getting “his type of player”, he was trying to get players that clearly did not work in his system. There were clashes and many players end up transferring or leaving early.That mixed with burning bridges with recruiting pipelines not only saw UCLA miss out on top recruits, but a lot of recruits, no matter what their star rating was.Ultimately, the vocal fan base and the administration thought it was time for a change."
2. How would you describe Howland as a coach – does he lean more towards offense or defense?
"Ultra-super-hyper defensive. He started his career at Northern Arizona and was then hired at Pitt where he perfected his hard-nosed defense. Then when he came to UCLA and single-handedly made the Pac-12 a tough, grind-it-out conference. When Howland has “his players” he will thrive. I doubt he will fall into the same traps he did at UCLA, which is very good news for Mississippi State."
3. What can Mississippi State fans expect from a Ben Howland-led basketball program?
"Slow, methodical, grind-it-to-the-bone defense. It will bore you and it will excite you. Forget about shooting early. Forget about flashy basketball. Forget about 100-point games. Howland wins by stopping the other team. Offense comes second, but it is not forgotten. You will have rebounding. You will have steals. You will have a lot of transition points. But know this, every move a Ben Howland team makes has been planned out and will be executed accordingly."
This is some great information – and really gives us some insight into what to expect. As I wrote yesterday, Howland told USA Today last month that he would run a fast-paced offense going forward, but clearly from these answers defense is his focus. So we can expect a grind it out style on defense and (hopefully) explosive offense.
"Expect Howland to turn Mississippi State into a perennial powerhouse within a few short years."
Huge thanks to Mike Regalado for taking the time to answer our questions, especially since UCLA has made it to the Sweet 16 and their time is very valuable right now.