Full teleconference transcript on Howland firing

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero spoke with media members for 12 minutes after the school announced that it had fired men’s basketball coach Ben Howland. Here is the full transcript.

Guerrero’s opening statement:

Earlier this afternoon, I met with Coach Ben Howland. We had a nice conversation about the program and a number of things. Subsequent to that discussion, I informed him that we were relieving him of his duties as a head coach at UCLA, and that we would be moving forward with a search as soon as possible.

Q: What were the reasons behind the decision?

As we went into this season, there were aspirations to compete for a conference championship and make a run in the tournament. Certainly, we were succesful in the former and not as successful on the latter part. However, the evaluation of a coach involves a number of other things besides just wins and losses. As I looked at the entire program, and where I felt we were — especially headed into next year, which obviously is where we need to look at this point in time — I felt like now was the appropriate time to make a decision, to make a change, and to get a fresh start.

Q: If Jordan Adams had stayed healthy and the Bruins made a tournament run, would that have affected Howland’s future?

That was very unfortunate what happened to Jordan. Jordan was in many ways the heart and soul of this team. Certainly, to lose him in that game was a critical loss for us. (But) it’s speculative. It didn’t happen, so there’s no need to dwell on it. I think the important thing, though, is when you look at that particular injury and what was left of our roster in a general sense, I think it’s important to note that the fact that we had such a depleted roster in many respects, is in part a reason, one of the reasons for making the decision.

Q: What is the cost of Howland’s buyout?

The compensation defaults to the contract itself. The contract still had five years remaining. It is a total package of $3.5 million. The first year is $2.3 million. It is $300,000 a year for the next four years. All of that is subject to migitation, which means that f he gets another job at any point in time from this point forward, whatever those dollars are mitigate the compensation that we owe.

Q: What did you tell Howland when you met after last season and decided to retain him?

I wouldn’t say there were real tangible benchmarks. Obviously, there were a lot of issues that were raised by a number of sources last year. We did not have a successful year on the court. On the other hand, we were on the road for the most part as Pauley was getting renovated. So it was understandable that it might be a difficult year. I took that into consideration as we moved forward. There were a number of challenges that we faced subsequent to last year, but as we moved forward into the new year, I’d been with Ben at that point for nine years. Great relationship. Enjoyed working with Ben. I felt and wanted to give him the opportunity to continue with the program, try to move it forward and see if we can get it on stable footing. That’s what we did.

Q: How much of a factor was needing to create a more profitable atmosphere at Pauley Pavilion?

There are a number of factors that dictate whether people come to games or not. I would certainly not lay all of that on Ben’s shoulders by any stretch of the imagination. We do need to obviously generate as much fan support as we can, and to get people into seats. I think it’s one of the marquee sports here at UCLA. Certainly, men’s basketball and football are the economic drivers for our entire program. And we do need to be clicking on all cylinders in that regard.

Q: How much of a factor is a coach that will wow the fanbase?

As we move forward, we’re going to try to get someone here that will excite the fanbase, will work with our student-athletes and get them to compete at high level. There’s a lot to sell when it comes to UCLA: great university, great academic tradition, great basketball tradition, terrific facility in Pauley Pavilion. Play in a wonderful conference. We’re in a great location. Great recruiting base. There’s a number of positives that a coach would look at if they come to UCLA.

Q: Will the new coach rely on one-and-dones?

Obviously, you’re trying to recruit the very best student-athletes that you can. It’s important for us to recruit student-athletes that can make the grade and can graduate. We’ll certainly look at all of them.

Q: How will the school pay for the buyout?

We have an $80 million budget. We’ll incorporate the buyout as part of that budget. We’re always seeking support from a number of sources to help us out in that regard. I believe we’ve got it covered. That’s just part of doing business.

Q: What is the template for a new coach, and do you have names in mind?

I don’t think I can reveal any names that I have on my mind at this point in time. Certainly, not that we’re moving into a search mode, I have an idea of where we’d like to go. It’s a UCLA tradition. We’re looking at individuals who can fit this university, recruit the type of student-athletes that will thrive academically, but obviously be able to compete at the highest levels in the country. We’re excited about the prospects of doing that search.

Q: How much did style of play factor into Howland’s firing, and how much will it into the hiring process?

We’ll look at everything just in a general sense. I know Ben got a lot of knocks for style of play, but you know what? Ben Howland is a very good coach. People sort of knocked him because we were more of a halfcourt, defense-oriented team. I think you saw this year that that kind of shifted a little bit. I think we pushed the ball a lot more, scored at a much higher rate. I know our fans like that. Obviously, in some respects and many respects, it’s about entertainment.

We’ll look for someone who can play a fun brand of basketball, but also a quality brand of basketball. Fundamentals are still important. Ability to defend is still important. But certainly, we don’t want to bring in a coach who’s going to average 50 points per game.

Q: Will you conduct the search on your own or employ a search committee?

We’ll be looking at that as we move forward. I don’t want to get into details of that at this point in time.

Q: When was the decision made to fire Howland?

The decision was made today. I flew back yesterday from Austin. Got into L.A. about 4:30. About an hour later, I contacted the chancellor and we had a long discussion. I contacted him again this morning after I sat on things. And then when I met with Ben, I told him at that point that we were going to move forward.

Q: If coaches you’re interested in are still involved in the NCAA tournament, will you wait until after their participation to contact them?

Yes, that’s correct.

Q: Will you consider NBA coaches as well?

We’re going to cast the net broadly. College coaches are certainly the priority in some respects, but we know there are a lot of other outstanding coaches that coach in the NBA. We’ll take a look and see what’s out there. We’ll bring in someone that will do a great job for us.

Q: Has anyone on Howland’s staff been retained?

I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to all the members of the staff face to face. Certainly, I was able to contact many of them tonight before we made the announcement. I will be meeting with them face to face tomorrow morning.

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  • Marc

    Thank you, Jack, for working this story as you have. Much appreciated.

  • Bruwins

    And then Stanford will have a new head coach this week, who will haunt us for the next 10 years….

  • jswogec@yahoo.com

    Ben Howland was a class act. Maybe his style of basketball didn’t match UCLA’s expectations. I am not a basketball guru so I can’t comment on what UCLA does, or does not need to reach some holy grail of basketball. What I do remember from the last ten years is that Ben Howland always put UCLA and his players first. He respected UCLA’s legacy and spoke in near reverant terms about how lucky he was to be in Westwood. Coach Howland made tough decisions and demanded players respect the game, themselves, and UCLA. I predict that going forward, Ben will remain respectful of his time at UCLA. I can say that if he gets the right type of players for his style of play, I would not want to see UCLA face a disciplined Ben Howland team. I wish him nothing but the best, and thank him for managing what is arguably the toughest coaching job in college basketball.

    • http://amillennialist.blogspot.com Santiago Matamoros

      Well said.

    • Lifelong Bruin Fan

      Very well put.