Howland Teleconference on Nelson

Ben Howland talks about the reasons for dismissing Reeves Nelson, when the decision was made, and what he thinks Nelson will do now that he's off the team...

Q: What was the final straw in this decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson?

A: It's been a thing that's been- I've sat with Reeves multiple times and explained to him that "you're here at the very end of what we're going to be able to move forward and keep you on the team with." It's just a culmination of everything. The last game, the behavior on the bench, after the game, was probably finally- we have to move forward. In fairness to the team, there's a point where we have to move forward and do what's best for the team. I really want to help Reeves and I'm really hoping that he in his future can continue to grow as a player that's able to fit into a team and organization and be able to handle all the things that go with that.

Q: Had you decided earlier in the week to do this and just wanted him to get through finals?

A: I wanted to make sure that he finishes finals and I was going to make a final decision on what we were going to do when he completed that.

Q: Do you think Reeves wanted to stay with the team?

A: Yeah, Reeves did not want to leave. He's disappointed but he also understands that this is final decision, this is it. We are moving forward without him.

Q: Did he give any indication about what his future plans are?

A: His options are three. One is he can stay at UCLA, finish out the academic year and he, in my estimation, will pass all of his classes this quarter. So he can stay and finish out the rest of the academic year. He could go pro and because of the NBA situation where a number of NBA players are returning from Europe, there's, with all the movement to try to replace those guys with other players, the chance that he'll be able to get a job over in Europe. Or he could transfer to another school in good standing and sit out a year and be eligible for a year and a half, what's left of his career.

Q: Is there any indication you get from him that he's capable of playing in a team situation?

A: I think that this hopefully for his sake is going to be something that's going to have a real drastic effect on understanding if he doesn't behave appropriately and fit in, there's no reason to believe this isn't going to happen again. He's got to make some changes. And I discussed that with him, and I'm hopeful that by the severity of what happened to him that he can learn from this and be better for it.

Q: Is there anything he could have done since the weekend to have really prevented this?

A: My thing was to just to give this a lot of thought. I didn't want to turn this into a thing where this is the focus of UCLA basketball, this continued issue with Reeves. So, in the best interests of the program and the team, I felt it was appropriate to make this decision and move forward.

Q: How do you expect this news to affect the team going forward?

A: Honestly, I think it will be a positive for our team, because the distraction of all this has not been a positive for our team. The negativity is not a positive for your team. When I suspended him the firs time, the two practices we had after that were the best two practices of the year that we've had. Hopefully this is going to be a unifying thing for our team.

Q: When you look back, do you wish you'd handled anything differently or been tougher on him earlier?

A: First of all, hindsight's always 20/20. If I'd been a professional basketball coach, he probably would have been dismissed earlier. But Reeves is actually a kid who just turned 20 this summer. He started college at 17. He's a young kid. As I explained in my conference on Tuesday, this is education, and we're trying to help kids grow and mature, and I'm one that's an optimist and wants to hope and believe and try to help kids grow and improve. But this came to a point where it's too much of a negative and a distraction for us, you know, the patience of trying to continue to get him to grow.

Q: Did you talk to his parents today?

A: I did, I've talked to both his mom and dad this week and then again this morning.

Q: And how did they take it?

A: It's very hard. It's very hard for any parent. Because they want their kid to be happy, and to have this kind of upheaval is not a good thing. Just to set the record straight, his parents are wonderful people, and really love and care about their children. It's difficult. They've been with Reeves his whole life and obviously care and love him very much.

Q: How tough is this as a decision for you knowing that you're not going to be around to help him anymore?

A: I'm not going to stop trying to help, and I explained that today when I met with him, even though he's leaving the team and dismissing him from the team. I'm going to continue to try and help him and advise him and communicate with him in the future. This doesn't end my relationship with Reeves Nelson, and my relationship with Reeves Nelson is going to continue.

Q: Is he good enough to play in the NBA if he gets his head together and his mind together?

A: Reeves is talented enough to definitely play at a high level, whether that's in the NBA or in Europe. There's no question that he has the talent and the physical capabilities to be a very good player at a high level.

Q: You said Reeves was disappointed when you told him, can you elaborate a little, did he take it hard?

A: I think that I'm not going to elaborate on that. Of course he's disappointed.

Q: You met with him this morning?

A: I met with him at 10:00 A.M. this morning. A couple hours ago.

Q: Did he try to plead one last case with you?

A: I'm not getting into all that.

Q: You've mentioned this has been an ongoing issue for the last couple of years. Is it any more disappointing given how well he started out his freshman and sophomore years?

A: I've thought he had the getting poked in the eye issue as a freshman, he had some adversity issues there that year. He had one other injury, I forget what it was, but he missed the last two or three games of that year. But I had a lot of hope for him. I think Reeves improved a lot as a player from his freshman to his sophomore year. So it's very disappointing.

Q: He had a very solid season last year, and then you come back this fall and the behavior problems started. Was there something you can pinpoint either off the court or-

No, no I'm not going to pinpoint that for you.

Q: But there was something that changed there?

A: I didn't say that.

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