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.”
On his job status:
Howland: I’ll tell you, I’ve been here, this is my ninth season now. I’m really really proud of what we’ve accomplished, both in terms of wins and losses, and just developing players and moving them forward from when they first come here as young players just out of high school to young men and adults as they leave the program. I feel very blessed, and I’ve said that, I said that the very first day I was here when I was speaking in the press conference, how lucky I feel and how blessed I am to be the coach of UCLA. It’s my dream job. It’s something I always dreamed of as a youngster and as a young coach, and I am appreciative of every day that I’m the coach here. At the end of every season, I sit with Dan, and have an end of the season evaluation where we talk about our strengths and weaknesses, what we need to get better at, what he felt was positive vs. what needs improvement. And we’ll do that again this year. But I am very confident of my abilities to lead this program in the future, and feel very good about, as I mentioned earlier, our current recruiting class, and also the kids that we’re involved with right now that are coming down to the final weeks of their recruiting process before they make a final decision.
On Reeves Nelson:
“I can’t get into specifics about any player, you know, in terms of the law. But I’ll tell you this, I’ve always been about my players, and doing everything I can, in my abilities, to help them. To help them as young men, to help them as basketball players, to help them improve. One of the biggest reasons I so coveted this job is because I think this institution, this program appeals to kids that are so special, that are so wonderful. We have an unbelievable support system for our players in reference to helping them off the floor. We’ve got an unbelievable counseling center. I know in the article, for example, there were assertions of drug and alcohol use. We have a great policy in place for our student athletes at UCLA that is educational but also punitive in terms of discipline. But my thing is, it’s incumbent on me as a coach, that once we have a player in our program, to do everything I can to help him realize his potential, to help him improve, and to help him overcome obstacles. And I have truly tried to do that with each and every one of my players.”