After being fired by UCLA a year ago, Ben Howland may be employed again soon.
Should Howland become the replacement, he would inherit arguably the toughest job in the Pac-12. A spot that was already unattractive when Robinson arrived in 2008 has not gotten any prettier. In the last six years, the Beavers never finished above .500 overall and only once placed higher than eighth in the conference. The program has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1990.
Athletic director Bob De Carolis said at a press conference this week that despite affirming Robinson’s status in March, he changed his mind after taking off “orange-colored glasses.” That may not have been the only impetus.
Multiple sources told me Monday that De Carolis was in touch with former UCLA coach Ben Howland as far back as early last month. Howland has been itching to get back into coaching, but resisted jumping at the first job that came his way, instead choosing to wait and see if his phone might ring as the various higher-tier vacancies (Marquette, Tennessee, Missouri) were filled.
It didn’t ring. At least not from those outside Corvallis.
During that period, and while he was weighing Robinson’s future, De Carolis apparently reached out to Howland and asked the guy who led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Four appearances if he believed a Pac-12 winner could still be built in Corvallis. De Carolis may have been fishing, he may have been trying to pick Howland’s brain, or he may have been conducting an informal interview.
Canzano reported too that Howland would want a six-year guarantee before jumping into a rebuilding project, as well as a salary in the range of $1.5 million. UCLA paid the 56-year-old a $2.3 million buyout while he sat out of coaching this past year, but the remaining annual payments of $300,000 will be reduced if he takes another job.
Also reported to be on Oregon State’s short list are Montana coach Wayne Tinkle and Arizona assistant Damon Stoudamire.
Current UCLA assistant David Grace, who worked under Robinson from 2009-13, is interested in the job as well and has the support of many Beavers. According to the Oregonian, even Hallice Cooke said he would reconsider his decision to transfer out if Grace were hired.