The hiring process may have dragged on, but Phil Mathews knew immediately he would jump at the chance to replace Donnie Daniels as a UCLA assistant men’s basketball coach.
“I’m a SoCal kid – born and raised, grew up in SoCal – to get the opportunity to come back and coach at a place like UCLA was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Mathews said during a conference call with UCLA head coach Ben Howland on Monday, after he was officially named an assistant coach after four years at Nebraska. “When Ben offered me the position, it was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Howland lauded Mathews recruiting ties in Southern California, as Mathews was a fixture in the basketball scene in the area for nearly three decades.
Before his stint with the Cornhuskers, Mathews spent 25 years coaching in California, all but nine in the southland. After playing for UC Irvine from 1970-72, Mathews spent several years as an assistant for the Anteaters and Cal State Fullerton, before eventually becoming head coach at Ventura College from 1985-95. After a 10-year run at the University of San Francisco, Mathews returned to the JC ranks to head San Bernadino Valley.
“I’ve known Phil for 28 years,” Howland said. “I was an assistant coach at Santa Barbara when he was at Fullerton way back in the day, 28 years ago. I’ve always had great respect for him as a coach, and as a recruiter. Important to me too are the ties he has to the SoCal community. He’s had a great experience, even being out now in the Big-12 and Nebraska. He’s a good coach, a very good recruiter, a good person who will represent the university in a first-class fashion.”
Mathews helped lead the Cornhuskers to NIT bids in 2008 and 2009, but will be charged with helping lead the Bruins back to a grander scale: the Final Four.
Howland said Mathews was his No. 1 choice to replace Daniels, and that the two parties had been discussing the position for a few weeks.
“We were in no hurry,” Howland said. “He still had some responsibilities in Nebraska. I’m friends with (head coach) Doc Sadler at Nebraska and they had to finish things they had going there. I didn’t want to hurt my relationship with Doc. Phil meant the world to them and their program, and I handle it the right way with people I respect. That’s probably why it went a little longer than usual.”
More changes to come?
Howland insisted that there would be no more changes to his coaching staff, though he added that director of basketball operations Joe Hillock is still a favorite for the women’s coaching job at Cal State Northridge. Howland was quite clear that the Bruins hoped to add more players to the current roster for next season, with only nine players on scholarship, including three incoming recruits.
“Yes,” Howland said, “in the works, in the works.”
One of the new recruits, Tyler Lamb, may know a little something about Mathews.
Lamb, the No. 14-rated shooting guard in the country out of Mater Dei, isn’t the first in his family to play for Mathews – both his father and uncle played for the new UCLA coach at Ventura College.
Family Affair? (Pt. 2)
Mathews won’t have to go very far to make his first sales pitch to a potential UCLA recruit.
Mathews’ son, Jordan, is a star shooting guard for J. W. North High in Riverside in the class of 2013, and many scouting services say he was on the Bruins’ radar already before the hire.
Howland mentioned the benefits of Mathews being able to watch his son at AAU tournaments that are off-limits to coaches normally, but isn’t a fan of the rule in the first place.
“He’s been out able to watch his son play at those AAU events and we can’t go to that as coaches,” Howland said. “That’s been good – he’s been able to see his son play against some other good players. The rule for the coaches to not be able to go out during April during AAU events has been a poorly thought-out rule. It really hurts a lot of D-1 programs, and the players in recruiting – they’re not allowed to get that exposure.”
On the Move
Sources inside the Baylor athletic department confirmed the transfer of J’mison “Bobo” Morgan, who was dismissed from the program in late-March.
Morgan averaged 2.1 points and 1.1 rebounds in 40 career games while shooting 46 percent from the field.