UCLA teleconference with Howland on SI story Pt. 2

On living up to John Wooden’s name:
UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland: “I hold Coach in such high esteem. Anybody who knows me or who follows the program knows that – and I also said that nine years ago, when I arrived here, the very first thing out of my mouth at the initial press conference -was that there’ll never be another John Wooden, and I would never purport to ever be able to live up to him, to what he accomplished, and to who he was as a man and as a coach.
“Of course, I strive to follow his ideals, and to try to support that teaching with our players and in our program. I had a great relationship with Coach Wooden, and that’s one of the great blessings of my entire life, both as a coach and as a person for me and my family to get to know him. It was such an honor to be able to talk to him and to learn from him. I just feel so blessed to have had that opportunity. Some of the maxims of Coach – I keep this little book, which he has this little book called “Thoughts and Observations by John Wooden” as a devotional that I look at and read all the time. Be observant and learn from your mistakes and try to improve. And his thing, the number one thing, is always do your very best. And that’s I truly believe that I’ve tried to do and as has my staff, do our very best. And that’s something we’re always imploring for from our players, whether it be in the class room, on the basketball floor, or in their lives.”

On his lack of involvement outside of practice/games:
Howland: “If you talk to my former players, and that may be the opinion of a specific player. No one came forward and said that they said that. But if you talk to former players, my former players, whether they be here, UCLA, the University of Pittsburgh, Northern Arizona, an assistant at UCSB, I would think over the last 30 or 31 years, that actually would not be considered to be accurate. That’s hurtful. I feel like I’ve got a great relationship; one of the great joys of coaching, for me, has been and continues to be the relationships I have with so many of my former players, that I stay in close contact with them and their families, from all those years past. And to me, that’s one of the great joys, having those relationships and the love you have because of being involved in athletics, and the closeness that brings to teams and to relationships. So, yeah, to answer your question, I didn’t agree with it.”

On allegations of physical abuse by players to players and managers
Howland: “The instances you are talking about in the article had to do with hard fouls and cheap shots. Never was there any, during my watching and being there for every minute of every practice, an assault or that I felt it was prudent that there was some kind of assault going on. Often times in the heat of battle, elbows are flying or guys are being physical. And yes, a cheap shot is different than a closed fist punched in someone’s face. Or directed at someone. So there’s varying degrees of your question. Anything I felt was something that was serious in nature, obviously I would always bring it to Dan and to my superiors and I would deal with it first hand, whichever players were involved.”
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UCLA teleconference with Howland on SI story

Ben Howland’s opening remarks:
”Obviously this is not a great day for our program, and of course for me. As I said yesterday, I knew some of the details of the Sports Illustrated story, but did not read the entire text until late last night. As you can imagine, I was surprised by some of the assertions that I had no knowledge of, were simply untrue or were taken out of context. I’m responsible for this program and everything that happens in it and if there’s any need to make changes, I’ll make them. I’m proud of our current and former players and our coaches, and I’m confident in where we’re going as we head forward.”

On personally changing since the Final Four run:
Ben Howland: “I’m pretty much the same person. You’re always trying to improve as a coach as you are as a player. Something that I preach to my players constantly is that you never stay the same. You’re always trying to improve and get better. So I hope that I would actually be a better coach than I was during that three year run of Final Fours.”

On what has changed:
Howland: I’ll tell you this, I’m very proud of our team. We’re talking about the last three years, and two of the last three years, we’re going into the last weekend of each season, one game behind the leader with a chance to win the conference, so we’ve been right there. But we didn’t go to the Final Four. And again, our expectations at UCLA are very high, the highest in the country. We want to win championships, and championships are what UCLA’s about, having won the most championships as a basketball program, or even as an entire athletic department. And, so I understand that, and that comes with the territory of being the coach here at UCLA.”

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Lorenzo Mata tweets in support of Howland

Former UCLA center Lorenzo Mata, a three-time Final Four veteran, took to Twitter to opine on the Sports Illustrated piece. Here is his feed.

1) Whoever the Snitch is talking bad about UCLA Bball and Ben Howland really must have no life… Coach Howland is a great coach and even

2) Better person, if it wasn’t for him I would not b the person I am today. He’s a Winner and he knows how to WIN

3) The players don’t have the winners mentality and are not mentally tough and they choose to party instead of winning, they’re not serious

4) If you are at UCLA basketball and want to WIN then be serious and take care of responsibilities, set ur priorities straight!!! SACRIFICE!!!

5) Be smart with decisions you make, Coach Howland can only do so much to help, its up to the players to sacrifice time and effort to WIN

6) UCLA Basketball has to be represented and respected highly… these kids have no heart and no will to win and to sacrifice for the TEAM.

7) I guarantee its not Coach Ben Howlands life, its the fact the the players don’t take it serious and rather go out and be selfish

8) They all complain about losing but how do you want to win if you don’t sacrifice like we did and do whatever it takes to WIN? We sacrificed

9) and put everything aside because we wanted to be successful 3 final fours in a row was cuz we wanted it and we sacrificed and listened to

10) Coach Ben Howland and he made us Winners and better persons in life. Thanks coach and I know UCLA bball will be at the top soon again

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