Ben Howland to sign seven-year deal with Bruins

Ben Howland is expected to sign a seven-year deal with UCLA. Howland will be formally introduced on Thursday at 2 p.m.<br><br> "Ben Howland is an outstanding basketball coach, one of the best in the entire country, and he is the man we want to run our program," athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a statement. "He has built winning programs throughout his career and we expect that he will return UCLA basketball to the nation's elite."

Howland, 45, will become the eighth coach at UCLA since John Wooden retired in 1975 Howland has big shoes to fill as Wooden lead the Bruins to 10 national championships in a 12-year span.

Howland replaces Steve Lavin, who was fired March 17 after the Bruins went 10-19 for their first losing season in 55 years. Lavin left with a record of 145-78 in seven years. He took the Bruins to round of 16 of the NCAA tournament five times in six years, a feat matched only by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

But Howland leaves behind anger and resentment among Pittsburgh officials and players.

Howland's decision to take the UCLA job was not learned in university circles until late Wednesday afternoon, when assistant coach Jamie Dixon informed players at a meeting.

"He never told us anything about it up front," junior center Toree Morris told the newspaper. "I think he owes us that, at least."

Throughout the regular season and NCAA tournament, Howland reiterated his willingness to stay in Pittsburgh, but he always left himself enough wiggle room in his statements to keep this the worst-kept secret in sports.

"I want to make it clear how hard it was for me to leave the University of Pittsburgh," Howland said. "I can't imagine myself leaving Pittsburgh for anywhere except UCLA."

Going back to the west coast comes is no surprise because Howland grew up in Southern California.

"Having grown up in Southern California as a Bruin fan, watching the televised replays of the games was special for me," Howland said in a statement. "To now be the head coach of this program is something I dreamed about but never thought possible. I have an appreciation for what these four letters mean in the world of college basketball."

Howland was an assistant at UC Santa Barbara for 11 seasons before taking the Northern Arizona job in 1994.

John Biles

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