UCLA officially fires Howland

After refuting reports late Saturday night, UCLA has officially fired men’s basketball coach Ben Howland. He has been relieved of his duties effective immediately, the school announced Sunday evening, and a national search for his successor has begun.

“I want to thank Ben for all that he has done for UCLA in his ten seasons in Westwood,” athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a statement. “He embraced our tradition and culture and produced some terrific teams and coached a number of wonderful young men. We wish Ben and his family all the best as they move onto a new chapter in their lives.”

In the same statement, Howland said: “I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach at UCLA for 10 years and I will always be grateful to Dan Guerrero and Chancellors Block, Abrams and Carnesale for the opportunity to coach and teach our players and work alongside tremendous coaches. The UCLA community and fans have been unbelievable to my family and I, and it’s been an honor and privilege to represent this great institution. I look forward to what comes next.”

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Report: Howland to be fired Sunday

Multiple reports indicate that UCLA could fire head coach Ben Howland as soon as Sunday.

Recruiting guru Alex Kline first reported the news, and SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria followed up with more details.

Yahoo! Sports reported Saturday evening that Howland had been notified of his firing, with an official announcement to come within the next 48 hours.

“Contrary to multiple media reports this evening, UCLA has not fired men’s basketball coach Ben Howland,” the school said in a statement.

According to Zagoria, UCLA is looking at Florida’s Billy Donovan, Butler’s Brad Stevens, VCU’s Shaka Smart, Villanova’s Jay Wright and North Carolina State’s Mark Gottfried. Kline’s source said Smart is the No. 1 target, and that Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad are both headed for the NBA. Continue reading

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UCLA’s season ends with a whimper

AUSTIN, Texas — Without Jordan Adams, sixth-seeded UCLA closed out its turbulent season with a flatlined performance against No. 11-seed Minnesota.

The Bruins were the slated underdog all week long. Once the game actually began at the Frank Erwin Center, they did nothing but reaffirm that talk in a 83-63 loss. What started out as an ugly but mutually designed affair — the teams missed their first 12 combined field goal attempts — eventually turned into a Gophers rout.

Despite shooting 26.7 percent in the first half, UCLA stayed within 10 points at the intermission due to a surprisingly strong rebounding effort. The team ended up with a 42-36 edge on the glass, grabbing 19 offensive boards on 43 missed shots.

It wasn’t until Minnesota point guard Andre Hollins caught fire in the second half that the Bruins were completely sunk. The sophomore scored 23 points after halftime, and added nine rebounds to go with five assists.

Some notes from the game. Continue reading

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FINAL: Minnesota 83, UCLA 63

UCLA’s season — and perhaps Ben Howland’s tenure — ends in one of the ugliest efforts of the season. Plenty of stats to choose from here, but Minnesota’s 50.8% shooting to the Bruins’ 31.7% spells this one out fairly clearly. UCLA actually held a 42-36 advantage on the boards, with 19 offensive rebounds coming on all those misses.

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Minnesota 35, UCLA 25: Halftime update

AUSTIN, Texas — All week long, UCLA insisted it was ready for the big stage.

The No. 6-seeded Bruins embraced the underdog role as it opened the NCAA tournament. They would prove the doubters wrong, they said, just as they had done on their way to a regular-season Pac-12 title.

But just 20 minutes into their matchup against No. 11-seed Minnesota, UCLA barely looked like a team that belonged in the NCAA tournament. The Bruins shot 8-of-30 from the field before halftime as it gave up a 35-25 lead to the Gophers. Continue reading

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CSUN head coach candidates include UCLA assistants

UCLA assistant coaches Scott Garson and Phil Matthews are candidates for the Cal State Northridge head coaching vacancy. Garson has been with the Bruins for seven years, while Matthews has for three.

Matadors athletic director Brandon Martin, hired in late February, did not renew Bobby Braswell’s contract — ending the coach’s 17-year tenure. The other finalists for the position are Los Angeles D-Fenders coach Reggie Theus, Cal State Dominguez Hills coach Damaine Powell and Gonzaga assistant Donny Daniels.

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Muhammad’s father reportedly lied about son’s age

A Los Angeles Times report today revealed that UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad’s age is not 19, but 20.

The article explores how Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, carefully crafted a path to athletic success — one that included fudging his son’s year of birth.

Muhammad’s birthday had long been reported as Nov. 13, 1993, and was listed as such in the UCLA media guide. However, a copy of his birth certificate obtained by the Times lists it as Nov. 12, 1992. Continue reading

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Wear not worried about Mbakwe

Minnesota ranks eighth in the country in rebounding margin. UCLA ranks 251st. On paper, it’s a tremendous advantage, and one reason the No. 11-seed Gophers are widely considered favorites over the sixth-seeded Bruins on Friday night.

But forward Travis Wear, who will be tasked with some low-post defensive duties, isn’t too worried about the opposition.

Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe is a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward who led the Big Ten in rebounding. Wear said that the team had already been “battle-tested” against the big men in Pac-12, adding that he had more trouble against slower 7-footers such as Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski and Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye. Continue reading

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Brown’s sprained ankle another hit to thin lineup

With UCLA down to a seven-man rotation, coach Ben Howland will need to turn to walk-ons if anyone else gets injured between now and Friday’s 6:57 p.m. PT tipoff against Minnesota.

Sophomore guard David Brown, who hit a 3-pointer in his 13 minutes of play this season, would have been the first man off the bench had he not sprained his ankle in yesterday’s practice. He was wearing a boot over his left foot in today’s public shootaround. Howland said Sooren Derboghosian will be the first big he’ll use, while Aubrey Williams will be the first guard. Both have played a total of seven minutes.

Freshman Jordan Adams did not make the trip to Austin, Texas for the NCAA tournament after undergoing surgery this week.

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