Howland Press Conference: Part 2

UCLA's new head coach, Ben Howland, answered questions from the throng of media today at UCLA...

Coach Howland thanked a number of people, including:


"I'd like to than my friends and the people that really gave me a chance to get to this level of coaching, and that's Mark Nordenberg, the chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, and Steve Pederson, who is now at Nebraska, who hired me at the University of Pittsburgh.  Without that opportunity – I'll tell you, this is the only job in the country that I would have left that institution for. People are there are so great to our family and to me.


"I think the one assistant I need to recognize the most is Jamie Dixon, who was very, very instrumental in building Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh programs to be successes. Jamie is going to be a great head coach. He's a native here as well, from North Hollywood, went to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School.


"It's so great to be back and be close to my mom and my dad. They live in Santa Barbara, as I figure it, only about an hour and 20 minutes from Pauley."


How emotional is it for you since you said earlier in the year you didn't want to leave Pitt?


"I think you can tell that I'm emotional today. It's a huge day. This is a dream that's come true. To be able to chase a dream that at one time you thought was unimaginable. And to be close to my family, as I am now, and my friends and coaching contacts. That really helps me. We know many people in California. And then the experience of being in Pittsburgh has helped me nationally in terms of recruiting. We have to do both. We have to do well within our state and our region in the west and they we have to reach out like all the best national programs do and recruit from other others. This type of institution is going to be able to do that because of the quality and blend of athletics and academic excellence. I should point out that I'm really proud to be part of the greatest athletic department in the country. You walk right through that room right there and you see all those national championship trophies. That is awe-inspiring. That is unbelievable. There is nowhere like that in the country and that's why it's so great to be here."


Can you take us through the time line of the last couple of weeks in regards to the hiring?


"You guys had it all in the paper. I couldn't put it any better. Unfortunately, our season ended abruptly, way before any of us wanted to. It was a tough lost against Marquette. That was on a Thursday.  On Friday, I returned to Pittsburgh and right away knew what I wanted to do, and that was to pursue this opportunity. I asked a friend to contract Dan, and Dan can take you through the rest."


Dan Guerrero:


"I got a call in the afternoon on that Friday and indicated to that representative that there was no way I could speak to Ben until such time as we made contact with the University of Pittsburgh. I left a message that afternoon with the athletic director on his voice mail because he was out of the office by the time we were able to call. I contacted him the next day, on Saturday, and indicated out intent to speak to Ben about our position. Saturday afternoon, we hooked up with Ben and arranged a meeting on Sunday. We met in Santa Barbara on Sunday. On Monday was a day of rest. On Tuesday we negotiated. Yesterday we put the ribbon on the package and did some logistics to get his family here. Last night we met at the Chancellor's office and gave Ben the opportunity to meet the Chancellor.  And we're here today."


Howland: "It really wasn't consummated until I met with the Chancellor last night and he approved that I'd be a good choice for this position. I wanted it so badly I arranged through some friends to get a Gulf Stream jet to get myself here on my own. With my own money. In fact, you owe me, Dan."


Guerrero: "You'll have to pay."


What has been your thoughts about UCLA trying to get back to where they once were and all the coaching changes they've been through?


"It's a program where you can and should be involved with the very best players in the country. But again you have to understand out of every 10 high-major players, there will only be three, or maybe two, that you can actually recruit because of academic requirements. But of those kids I think there's a great chance to recruit and get those kids. The other thing is, it's another era than it was 20 years ago. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton would not have been at UCLA for more than a year or two in today's landscape. That doesn't mean we still can't have an elite program, year in and year out, doing it the right way, and recruiting the type of kids that can really represent this university and this program in the way that we all want them to."


Have you spoken with your players from Pittsburgh? They must be disappointed.


"I would be upset if they weren't disappointed.  These kids were so tough, competitive and driven, and they know how much I love them. I'll have an opportunity to see them on Sunday. We had our typical after-the-year meeting on Monday and I explained to them that I was involved with this job. That's about all I can say at that time. And really because of you all it's very difficult to even say that much. I really wanted this job. But after the emotion wears off a little bit about the change in terms of coaches for them, we're going to have friendships that last a lifetime. One of the greatest things about being a coach is the relationships that develop with your players. I have contacted some of the them on the phone after this was consummated. Again, it wasn't consummated until I met the Chancellor. I talked to Chevy Troutman this morning. Missing Jaron Brown's and Julius Page's senior year is really tough for me because they're such great kids. And they've done so much for that program. That program has come a long way in a short time, and the foundation is now built there. There are a lot of people clamoring, fighting for that job right now."


Mr. Guerrero, did you ever attempt to contact other coaches and if so, who? And if not, do you have any reservations about interviewing only one person?


Guerrero: "Don't jump to conclusions about what we did and what we didn't do. This was a very exhaustive process. I indicated from the very beginning we were going to keep this process close to the vest, to protect the integrity of other coaches that may be at other institutions.  We felt that was the prudent thing to do. When you go through a process like this, there are a lot of discussions that take place. Going through the whole process, we came up with one individual that we thought was the right individual for this job. So, we pursued it and got the job done. I'm grateful that the process worked the way it did. One must understand that there are other means of transportation than commercial airlines. That doesn't mean that just one individual was spoken to."


Coach Howland, what is your impression of the players on the UCLA team?


"We had a good meeting. They were very attentive, good eye contact. I don't know a lot about them as players or as kids yet. This is all just in the beginning stages. I'm going to meet with each kid individually on Monday.  I'm going to go down to New Orleans for two days with my son, Adam. Then turn around and get back to Pittsburgh as early as possible on Sunday and then return to Southern California to meet with our players on Monday. And get a chance to study some more film. We're able to go out and start recruuiting here on the 8th, and that's the lifeblood of the program. Recruiting is the key. Every good coach will tell you that. To have success you have to have players. Coach Wooden had a great system, but he also had great talent to work with. That's the attraction of this job. I think you can attract here the players that give you a chance to be an elite program year in and year out."


Part Three coming soon...

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