The common thought is that UCLA’s slide from glory was because star players such as Russell Westbrook (0) and Kevin Love (42) have bolted to the NBA before their eligibility was up. Westbrook only stayed two seasons while Love only stayed one. But it appears that the problems are much deeper than that. Photo by Jason Lewis
UCLA’s program has been nearly derailed over the past few years. Unless they go on a miracle run in the PAC-12 tournament, they will have missed the NCAA tournament in two out of the last three seasons.
Losing key players to the NBA was thought to be the major issue, but a Sports Illustrated article is pointing the finger at a program, and mostly head coach Ben Howland, that has lost control of the team. According to the article drug and alcohol use has been a problem, and allowing star players to violate rules, such as fighting, without punishment has caused the most storied basketball team in NCAA history to fall from glory.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
At the time of Wooden’s talk, UCLA’s basketball program was one of the smoothest-running trains in the country. The Bruins had made consecutive Final Fours and would reach a third in 2008 behind freshman Kevin Love, the team’s new locomotive, who was in the audience that November evening. UCLA coach Ben Howland would join Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski as the only active coaches to lead teams to three straight Final Fours. Howland’s reputation for teaching defense and instilling discipline made him appear to be cut from Wooden’s cloth.
But then the program started veering off the rails. Two years ago the Bruins went 14-18, only the third time since 1948 (the year Wooden was hired) that they had finished with a losing record. They entered this season ranked 17th in the nation but through Sunday were only 16-13 (9-7 in the weak Pac-12) and needed to win the conference tournament to avoid missing the NCAAs for the second time in three years.
UCLA’s fall has been something of a mystery. It has most often been blamed on players jumping early to the NBA (six Bruins have done so in the last four years, including Love and fellow first-round picks Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday), players transferring (five have departed) and even a supposed dearth of quality big men coming out of high schools on the West Coast. Inside the team, however, more fundamental problems have been at work, eroding the sense of unity, leading some players to leave the program and sending the blocks of Wooden’s Pyramid tumbling down.
Over the last two months SI spoke with more than a dozen players and staff members from the past four Bruins teams. They portrayed the program as having drifted from the UCLA way as Howland allowed an influx of talented but immature recruits to undermine team discipline and morale. Fistfights broke out among teammates. Several players routinely used alcohol and drugs, sometimes before practice. One player intentionally injured teammates but received no punishment.
Read the entire article at: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/magazine/02/28/ucla/index.html#ixzz1nomHQWIQ
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