Q: What is the likelihood of Ben Howland getting fired? What is the benefit of firing a coach mid-season
A: The men’s basketball team will need to make some significant gains to save Ben Howland. With the Bruins trending up, they should be able to keep him safe until the season is over — even if his chances for staying beyond that are fairly low. (The two transfers in four days are more embarrassing than the record. Easy to attribute on-court struggles to youth. Hard to avoid blame for massive exodus.) Another Cal Poly-like loss could signal an abrupt end for Howland, but with Shabazz Muhammad looking better with each game, that’s an unlikely prospect. The advantage of getting rid of him early could give UCLA a head start in the coaching search, but that comes at the likely cost of creating even more havoc in what has already been a very bumpy season. Dan Guerrero isn’t under nearly the same pressure as Howland, especially considering how well the Jim Mora hire has gone.
If Howland is fired, I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about losing recruits, though that might be dependent on who replaces him. (VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens are the perfect-world hires, but they might be mid-major lifers.) UCLA still has clout as a historical program, and now has new facilities as well: the film room — basically a mini-theater — and new lockers are quite nice.
Q: How important is a Holiday Bowl win to recruiting?
A: Considering everything else that UCLA has done this season, the Holiday Bowl probably isn’t going to be as big of a factor. The win over USC was obviously huge given the stature of the game as well as the attention of the entire Southern California recruiting area, and making a run at the Pac-12 Championship helped as well. With a bowl that’s good but not great, there won’t be much to sway recruits significantly in either direction. (Anthony Barr said that when he was a recruit, he only watched the BCS bowls.) Unless the Bruins completely implode on Thursday — extremely unlikely — a loss to Baylor wouldn’t do too much to erase what Jim Mora has already accomplished this season. Five-star tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, for example, seems to be basing his decision much more on defensive coaching staffs as well as a chance to make an immediate impact.