As you may have heard, UCLA fired head coach Ben Howland on Sunday. That may seem odd given that, you know, the Bruins won the Pac-12 regular season title, but there are other issues at work here, and the writing's been on the wall for a while. As you also may have heard, Mark Gottfried has UCLA connections--he spent years there as an assistant.
So what should our worry level be at this point? Hard to tell. It seems clear at this stage that Gottfried is not a tier one candidate for the job. According to Pete Thamel and Andy Katz, the Bruins are going to look first to guys like Jay Wright and Shaka Smart.
Talked to a lot of coaches today. Expect the name Jay Wright to get some play at UCLA. I doubt Shaka or Brad consider it.— Pete Thamel(@SIPeteThamel) March 25, 2013
Wishful thinkers from Westwood wanted Billy D. Can't see that. Focus will be on VCU's Shaka Smart first, according to multiple sources.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 25, 2013
But take a look at this friggin' wish list. Stevens and Smart would seemingly be the most likely to take the job among those first tier candidates, and if Thamel's instincts are right, they'll decline. Which very well could send UCLA into the second tier, which definitely will include Gottfried. And then there is this nugget:
The Latest on his connection with UCLA (3/24) - Per a source close to Gottfried, the N.C. State head coach is very interested in the UCLA job. It remains to be seen if the feeling is mutual, however.
For whatever that's worth.
Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, Mark Gottfried,and Jay Wright are on UCLA's wish list, the source said.
UCLA's AD also had this to say after the firing:
"We will look for someone who plays a fun brand of basketball," Guerrero said, according to the Times. "We don't want to bring in a coach who averages 50 points per game."
Those potentially ominous indicators aside, UCLA would have some challenges in its attempt to steal away Gottfried, if that is indeed what its search finally came down to. As Joe Giglio pointed out this afternoon, Gottfried has a buyout of $3.75 million.
Gary Parrish outlined some possible hurdles for Dan Guerrero as he searches for a new head coach. Parrish even had a current high-major college coach tell him that he'd prefer to have the Southern Cal Job (!).
Combine all that with the fact that UCLA has never been willing to pay top-dollar for a coach and never traveled like a top-shelf program. Then combine all that with the reality that the agent culture in Los Angeles makes it difficult to keep even borderline NBA prospects like Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee in school. Then combine all that with the undeniable truth that trying to fill an arena for weeknight games that tip at 6 p.m. is hard given that it takes roughly 90 minutes to get anywhere in Los Angeles in rush-hour traffic, and who, exactly, is going to leave a good and well-paying job to tackle a new challenge where history suggests an outright league title won over two current Sweet 16 teams might not be enough to save you?
Of course, the thing about all of this stuff is it may be enough to relegate the Bruins to tier two. These factors could be disincentives for Gottfried to move, but he's no doubt already familiar with many of them, and if he doesn't mind these issues as much as UCLA's first choices, they may also lead the Bruins right to him.
Happy offseason, everybody. /sigh