Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
We don't hear much from Ben Howland anymore. He had some early success at UCLA after leaving Pitt, but a few down seasons have folks out west getting antsy.
One of those is basketball great, Bill Walton. In case you missed it, Walton absolutely teed off on Howland last week ... during a game no less. There was this exchange with ESPN's Dave Pasch:
Pasch: “You’ve criticized the attendance now five times. Give me a solution. How do you fix it?”
Walton: “Play better basketball.”
Pasch: “OK, well, that’s obvious. How do you play better basketball?”
Walton: “Better style.”
Pasch: “Alright, so, is that the coach? Is that the players?”
Walton: “It’s the coach.
Pasch: “So you’re not a Ben Howland fan?”
Pasch: ”Well, he went to three straight Final Fours. He hasn’t made the Tournament the last three years. Has his time run out here in Westwood?
Walton: “I’m not in charge. If I were, things would be different.”
Look, did Walton go too far? Probably. He's a little closer to the situation that other announcers, having played for UCLA. But I don't blame him for being passionate and I'd actually prefer what he said over your run-of-the-mill commentator afraid to criticize anyone or anything.
I don't know where the Howland thing goes. He hasn't won a title there, but had three Final Fours and reached a championship game. Problem is that the program hasn't gotten out of the first weekend in four seasons and missed the tournament altogether in two of those. If Howland gets dismissed there, he's had enough success that he should be able to land a decent job. But wherever he ends up will likely be a step down from UCLA.