I sat down with UCLA head coach Ben Howland for an extended interview on Tuesday, and here’s the second part…
Gold: Do you think you over-recruited in that 2008 class? Got too many highly rated guys, and maybe not enough glue guys?
Howland: “No, but look, we didn’t know for sure we’d lose Mbah-a-Moute. I probably would’ve never recruited J’mison Morgan had we kept Mbah-a-Moute. He left knowing he’d probably be a second-rounder, and I was dumb-founded. But he started on three Final Four teams, saw everyone go pro, and he said what about me? It worked out for him, that’s the great thing. That class, they were all highly thought-of players. It’s so hard to say. Did I know Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook were going to be NBA players when I recruited them? I didn’t know that. I thought they’d be good college basketball players. I had no idea both would be starting in the NBA right now. It’s not an exact science. Russell, we were lucky to get. We signed him late. It’s just not an exact science.”
Gold: So here you are now, coming off a one-point win over UC Irvine,
“I go back and think about our team in ’05, the team that got the most of itself out of all those three teams that went to the Final Four, and we had a bunch of games we barely won in non-conference. We were lucky to beat Wagner, Drexel took us down to the last five minutes of the game – and this is a Final Four team. It’s not that easy.”
Gold: You mentioned earlier about laying a foundation, about the struggles your first year at UCLA, finishing under .500, then going from a No. 11 seed to the national championship. Do you look at this team like that, like you’re a year or two away?
Howland: “For this particular team, we’re very young. We’re still growing up. But look, we expect to win every game we go into. We’re giving everything we have. We’ve had two hard practices leading up to today; we got in at six and by the time we were out of film, it was almost 10.
“We’re building experience right now.”