VIDEO: Howland after CSUN

Ben Howland talks about Josh Smith leaving the program, what impact that will have on UCLA, and the zone defense that UCLA played against Northridge...

Ben Howland talks after CSUN:


BH: obviously, that was an important win for us, coming off a disappointing loss on Sunday night [against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo]. We did a good job with our zone. And they missed a few open shots. They hadn't seen a lot of zone, especially [audio difficulties]… we really played unselfishly tonight. Did a good job sharing the basketball. I thought Larry Drew was really, really good again picking out people that were wide open. It was good to get the win and moving forward now. We're going to have to play zone. We're not quitting on our man. We'll use it tactfully. This team though is a better team with zone and we'll stay with it.

Q: how does Tony [Parker] look? It looked like he went down a little bit?

BH: Tony sprained an ankle. I didn't know about it until after he went in during warmups. Somehow he went in to shoot a layup and landed on a ball coming down. I have no idea. I don't even know if it's on film. I don't think it is. I remember Ryan Hollins, I remember one time… and that kid's senior year, going way back.

He's [Tony] never sprained an ankle before so that typically makes it a bit worse. The trainer didn't think it was real serious.

Q: Ben, how does Josh [Smith] leaving affect you guys, depth-wise now?

BH: well, we're going to play 8 guys. Our 9 and 10 guys would be Sooren [Derboghosian] and David Brown. And so, it affects us where Josh would play 13 minutes a game our first six games, obviously we're going to spread it around. But that speaks to the fact that we'll have to play zone in terms of foul trouble situations. We'll have to get better at it. Even though they shot a low percentage tonight, they did have a number of good looks. So we have to spend more time on it.

Q: Ben, when you spoke to Josh, what did you say in terms of making this decision to leave the program and his thoughts of transferring?

BH: he didn't talk to me about transferring. He talked about personal issues that he has to deal with. So he made his mind up when he came to meet me today, this morning. We were obviously disappointed. But at the same time, we wish the best for Josh and appreciate what he gave to the program during his tenure.

Q: he was looked at as a pretty important piece to this team. What are you going to do?

BH: well, we'll miss a big man presence inside. And some experience. Josh played a few years. So those 2 things are probably the 2 biggest things.

Q: Ben, were you surprised when he came to say, "I'm just going to leave"…

BH: Yeah, I was surprised, shocked… I really was. I didn't think that was going to happen.

Q: can you put your finger on why it didn't work out for him here? In 3 years, he wasn't able to keep his body in shape. There were other issues. Can you put your finger…

BH: you know what… I don't know if you guys spoke to Josh at all. For him, I'll let him answer those questions. We support him. I think Josh can be a really good player. And obviously, his conditioning factor is probably the biggest factor and being able to deal with that… he's a good kid and we wish him well. And disappointed unfortunately this happened.

Q: 8 players that have left in the last 4 years, I think. Do you think about maybe the way you're approaching things or how you're connecting with these kids that in any way that that's contributing… or not contributing?

BH: I haven't counted how many. But I think I've answered this question before, and it's something I've obviously reflected upon. And that's why it was surprising for me to see Josh leave. I was really surprised. I thought Josh enjoyed his time at UCLA, really liked his teammates, and really connected well with everyone on the team this year. He had a great trip going to China.

Q: Ben, do you feel like the team has great potential…

BH: I really do. I really like the group that we have. I think we have a lot of talent. I think obviously we're very young. When you look at the guys that we're playing... We're playing 3 freshmen major minutes. Tony's going to get more minutes now, and hopefully he'll be healthy soon.

Q: what prompted the changes in the lineup today?

BH: we were expecting a lot of pressure so I thought having another ballhandler out there… Our 2 best ballhandlers on the team are Larry and Kyle. And bottom line, it's not going to make a huge difference in terms of the minutes played. I mean, Dave Wear, Norman Powell are going to get their minutes. And they responded great. They're great. I can't say enough about the great attitudes. It's all about the team and helping the team win.

Q: Coach, can you talk a little bit about the rebounding today? You got outrebounded by 12.

BH: I thought in the first half, I can't remember, what was the margin at halftime? Does anybody have it?

Q: 20-16.

BH: 20-16? In the second half, they ended up getting 10 offensive boards. I think they only had 3 at halftime if I'm not mistaken. I was real pleased with that. They ended up shooting a lot of 3's tonight. Almost half their shots were 3's in the first half. They took 16 3's on 33 shots.

Q: Coach, was the focus of this team night and day from that Cal Poly game?

BH: our focus was better. Part of it was we're still learning how to play with a lead. Even tonight, we made a couple of mistakes… where we had an 18 point lead with the ball with 11 minutes to go on Sunday night. We had a 15 point lead with 8 minutes to go. And we were rushing the score instead of understanding that the clock is our friend in those situations.

Q: does the atmosphere in practice since the Cal Poly game feel a little different?

BH: well, we've only had 1 practice. We watched the film on Monday and strictly a day of watching film. Tuesday was our practice. We had a good practice. Guys worked hard.

Q: Coach, 2 players now in the last 3 days… people on the outside are going to perceive that there's something going on here. How are you going to prepare to deal with those assumptions?

BH: I'm disappointed. With Tyler [Lamb], it's pretty straightforward. He wanted playing time, and he was worried about that with the current roster. I'm disappointed because obviously a body would be important. And Josh… we're going to work extremely hard with what we have and I'm going to coach my tail off here to help this team reach its potential. Our biggest obstacle is the health issue, staying healthy with the limited numbers.

Thank you.

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