Ben Howland, who coached UCLA for the past 10 years, was fired on Sunday, the school announced. The move ends the longest coaching tenure at UCLA since John Wooden retired in 1975. In 10 seasons, Howland went 233-107, leading the Bruins to three Final Four appearances.
“I evaluate a coach on a number of other things besides wins and losses,” said UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero. “I looked at the entire program, where we were and especially where we’re headed. Now was the appropriate time to make a change and get a fresh start.”
The Bruins had a successful regular season, clinching the Pac-12 regular season title. UCLA advanced to the Pac-12 championship game, falling to the Oregon Ducks, but still clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Bruins were eliminated in their first game, falling to Minnesota 83-63 on Friday. The embarrassing loss was the final straw, as Howland was fired two days later.
UCLA has already begun the search for their next coach. According to a source close to the athletic department, VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens are at the top of the Bruins’ list. Both coaches have successfully turned small programs into national powerhouses and could bring UCLA their first national championship since 1995.
Despite Howland’s success at UCLA, his popularity had been waning in recent years. The Bruins failed to reach the NCAA tournament in two of the past four years, and hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2008. Only a deep run into this year’s tournament would have saved Howland’s job.