Howland's Monday Press Conference

Ben Howland talks at length about his players' prospects in the NBA Draft, what rule changes would be ideal, and how things shape up for the Washington trip this week...

Ben Howland at press conference:


BH: fire away.

Q: the obvious question, how do you get the guys to focus on a Washington State team that seems to be struggling?

BH: yeah, you know, those of us who have been there know how many close calls we've had in Pullman in recent memory, including… I was trying to remember today if Malcolm [Lee] made a layup or was it free throws with 2 seconds to go when we won there 3 years ago… 2 years, I can't remember his last game. But we've had so many… [Brock] Motum is such a good player. They had Oregon down 17 two weeks ago and Oregon made the miraculous comeback and was able to win. They played great yesterday [Sunday] at Washington. So, I know and I've really tried to impress on the players that if we don't show up and play our best, we definitely put ourselves… and have the opportunity to lose on Wednesday night. And that's the only game I'm thinking about, and as I told you guys after the game, I'm honest-to-God telling the truth, I didn't even know we were playing Wednesday until Saturday. And it just happened that we were talking about Shabazz [Muhammad]'s eye appointment which he just left for in… but we're leaving on Tuesday, and so I said, "What are you talking about?" Because I'm so used to this Thursday-Saturday stuff over the years that I don't even pay attention to the next game. So trust me, all I'm concerned about are the Cougars. And I know that beating us on Wednesday would really be something they'd be excited about.

Q: what is it about the Washington road trip that's so difficult?

BH: well, it's a long way to get there. It's very difficult travel. As you know, we don't fly charter. We're changing planes. Waiting in airports. And then you always have the weather factor. We've tried to fly into Lewiston [Washington]. Got fogged in. Or flying into Pullman. Stuck up there in the air. So that's part of it. And they've been good. If you would think back to some of the teams that they've had over the last decade, they've been good. Both teams. I'm responsible for both of the losses to Washington State here at Pauley [Pavilion]. No other coach has ever lost to Washington State in Pauley but me. Yours truly. I'm wary of this game.

Q: with all that, you said they've had good teams. "It's difficult…" why have you reeled off 19 straight wins then?

BH: you know what? A lot of luck. I go back and think about, I think it was my second year here. They were up 3 and Dick Bennett was the coach, and they didn't foul us. We made a 3 to tie it. Dijon Thompson made a 3 to tie it, and we won in overtime. And he said after the game, "that I just kicked myself for not fouling." That's always the coach's dilemma. Do you foul, do you not foul? And so I remember him talking about that because I was good friends with Dick, and had great respect for what Dick and Tony both accomplished there at Washington State. So it's really nothing short, in my mind, of "miraculous." If it's going to end, I just don't want it to be on Wednesday.

Q: you would think that at some point, the ball would bounce against the team, after a 20 year period.

BH: well, let's not try to jinx it. But yeah, we've been very fortunate. Very fortunate.

Q: with Kyle [Anderson], whether he goes to the NBA after this year or next year after, what do you think he needs to improve on especially to round out his NBA resume?

BH: well, I think that this year with Larry [Drew II], he had the ball in his hands most of the year. I think, a year from now, providing that Kyle is back, which I obviously hope… I'm sorry that I even… I'm sometimes too honest. Because it'd be better to just have answered that question differently the other day. Because I never discussed it with Shabazz. It's just… it's kind of obvious when the kid's a lottery pick and that they're going to be going to the NBA in this day and age. So, that being said, and things can happen for any of our other players too, I mean, you know, depending on how we play here down the stretch. With that being said, to answer your question, Kyle having the ball in his hands more… it's even going to make him stand out more. The more he has the ball in his hands where he is so good. And where Larry's really improved is upping the ball, advancing the ball in transition. I think for Kyle, I think his real greatest strength is making plays for others. And by having the ball more and playing more of a point on offense, which is the plan a year from now, I think it's gonna… I also think, like today, we talked again and I was like, "God, you look good." Looking at his body and he looks very fit. And he said, "Yeah, I stopped drinking soda again." He's still a kid, and he's growing up. Like all kids in our society with the sugary drinks. So when he gets his body right and he has a whole off-season to work at lifting, his core, yoga, all of that is going to really increase… and a year from now, and I've talked to him about this, I'm not playing him at the 4 on defense. He's strictly going to be guarding the 3. With the 1 on offense. I think that's going to help prepare him. Because he's still got to get better at chasing guys around and trailing guys. That's what you have to do in the NBA. I mean, you've got to be able to… You're not going to play unless you can defense your position. Defend a position. You're not going to play. You're not going to play. And you look back, I was just commenting to someone yesterday about the kid that left Kansas early that was the #1 recruit in the country 3 years ago. He's out of the league now. What's his name? Out of Philadelphia?

Q: Sullivan.

BH: Sullivan. You better be ready. You better be prepared. And the biggest part to that, at the next level, is the defensive side.

Q: would you suggest that he should have at least another year?

BH: no, I'm not going to suggest anything until the season's over.

Q: would him coming back change your 2013 point guard recruiting plans at all?

BH: no. If Kyle's back, he's our starting point guard.

Q: but does it make it less likely that you take another guard?

BH: no, it doesn't. I shouldn't say that. Everybody's got to come in and fight it out. But in my mind, moving forward, it's what I'm projecting what it could be.

Q: you said you made those comments Saturday without discussing it with Shabazz. Have you discussed his future [with him] since then?

BH: no. No.

Q: you're still downplaying it. Do you think there's even a slight opening there of him coming back?

BH: it's incumbent upon me, as the coach here, if the kid's a top-10 pick, to encourage him to do the right thing for him and his family. In my opinion, almost without question, if someone's a lottery pick, he should go to the NBA. And the difference is, the later you go… there's the flipside. Like do I think Tyler Honeycutt should've come back? 100%. He would've been a first round pick the next year. And where you go in the draft, if you go back and study this, which I've done because we've lost a lot of guys early, is that the earlier you go [in the draft], the more commitment that program, that NBA franchise has to you and is committed to you. The later you go, the less it is. So it makes total sense. It's like… It's amazing to me that this has turned into such a big deal. This is like really big news. Because to me, it's not at all. But I got home Saturday night, I'm watching on ESPN there, every 4 seconds, at the bottom there, "Howland says…" and you have to look at my ugly face there on the tube and I apologize. You've seen some kids that [audio difficulties] and the two that come to mind for me are [Al] Horford and [Lee] Humphrey. After 07, or 06, they would've all been really high and they would've likely not come back. The difference is Yannick Noah is a multimillionaire. And Horford's dad was a pro. And there's [Corey] Brewer. Circumstances. If I was [Shabazz], I'd definitely come back. How could you want to leave this place? Who was out there? I know you were there. How great was that for the students? The day before the game when they were out there, camping out. Our players were out there, handing out pizzas. Shabazz made a shot in the second throw when they put the ping pong ball in the "cup game." And you know, the kids were out there running around. And it's funny. Because I heard someone talk and I think it actually may have been an announcer saying that if you talk to every pro player, they all tell kids… they interviewed Blake Griffin during our game the other day and he was like, you know… he was a top-10 pick and he came back and he ended up being the #1 pick. So every kid's different. Every kid varies. I just… I just want what's best for my players. And that was kind of cool, by the way, to have all those guys here. I had no idea. I never know who's here at a game when the game's going on. But all of a sudden, there's Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan. Matt [Barnes] obviously was here. A former Bruin. Baron Davis. I got such a great kick out of seeing Gary Shandling after the game because I loved the Larry Sanders show. I loved Hank Kingsley. And I loved Rip Torn and his role. I mean, I had a great time with… obviously I loved his show and he was like, "yeah". And then I started talking about all the things that I knew about him and he was like, "he really did love his show." So that was a fun atmosphere on Saturday for everyone.

Q: did it ever come up during recruiting with Shabazz that he said he was only one year?

BH: I didn't say it. But it was my expectation going into it. Normally, the #1 player in the country, coming out of high school, is 1-and-done. You go back and look at the last 10 years.

Q: has that been something you've had to get used to as time has gone on? With Kevin…

BH: that's a good thing to get used to. It's happened 3 times. It's a blessing. It's a good problem to have. The #1 player in the country. Like… I can't even say his name because he's a recruit so… but…

Q: can you do initials?

BH: "AW?" It's going to happen again in the future. And again, we're talking about all this… what I would prefer (it's not going to happen) is that they go right out of high school, but once they come to college, they've got to stay for 3 years. That would be my preference. Even 2 years. I would much have that better for the culture of basketball and for the kids. But that's not going to happen. This is way set up great for the NBA. You guys are covering this. It's all over everywhere. These kids are household names coming out of college. They get evaluated for a year in a much more organized… better players… it's all set up for them. We have no control. We have nothing… it'd be great if we could have more of a dialog because I think it'd be better overall for the culture of basketball and ultimately for their league if they stayed for more than one year once they attend college.

Q: without the one-and-done rule, do you think maybe you wouldn't have had guys like Shabazz or Kevin Love?

BH: no, I think they would've gone right away.

Q: has it benefited UCLA at all?

BH: absolutely. It's been great. I'll always treasure coaching Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday.

Q: is there any way to kind of force the NBA into…

BH: no. No. I don't see it happening. And that's one the reason why I think like the NFL is such a homerun. I mean, you know, because everybody knows you're going for 3 [years]. These kids are left alone coming out of high school. They're able to enjoy their college experience. The vast majority of them have an opportunity to graduate. They're really close to graduation but they don't. They leave after year 3. I mean, and they're much more ready once they get there. There's less… no one does all the stories about all the guys that left early and then are out. I go back, just thinking about here locally like the kid that was at ‘SC, he was the first pick in the second round to the Celtics is now over in Israel or somewhere. Really good player. From the valley. What was his name? Played for Tim [Floyd]. Tim's first couple of years. Him and Nick Young were in the backcourt.

Q: Gabe Pruitt.

BH: Gabe Pruitt. Gabe Pruitt stays one more year, he'd still be in the league right now. There's so many kids that are at that end of the draft that actually get messed up by this whole thing. There's such a push. And that's where having a strong family… and there's kids… nobody that has stayed here has been hurt by staying here since I've been here. Not one guy has been hurt by staying.

Q: does that put Kyle in a more precarious situation? When he's not guaranteed… he's not like Shabazz right now. Is it incumbent upon you to help him make that decision at the end of the season?

BH: yeah, but you know, he has a dad who's a coach. And a mom. I mean, they're smart. They're going to do… it's all about long-term. Everybody in our society is about "now, now, now" but in a decision like that, you've got to have a vision to see the long-term. So you know, I mean, like, I'm very confident that… but at the end… we'll see. But they're smart people. They're intelligent. Very bright. They've been around it their whole lives situation. They'll make their decisions. And Kyle will make his own decision. He's very mature.

Q: Coach, does it become harder for you to minimize distractions, seeing as how you're in a position to win the conference, going into this weekend?

BH: is there distractions?

Q: does it become harder to keep your team focused?

BH: I hope not. I mean, if you were talking about distractions, they were last weekend. The circus was in full swing with [ESPN] College GameDay. I mean, it was wild and they handled that very well. Really well. You know, we had guys… Kyle had his boyhood friends that have never been here before out here for the first time, coming from New Jersey. It's 85 degrees here and they're getting off the plane and they're pretty excited. And he handled that well. And these guys are used to distractions. I mean, I've never seen guys on the phone texting more. They're constantly distracted. It's just part of their lives.

Q: is there more pressure this week?

BH: I mean, you know, there's always pressure. It's the next game. I know you guys want "drama." That's you guys' thing. Every game is the biggest game of the year from my standpoint. And that's what I tried to impress on our players.

Q: do you have an update on Travis [Wear]'s…

BH: Travis didn't practice today. We went very light today. There was no contact. But he didn't practice. He had some swelling there which was expected after the game on Saturday. He played great. I mean, for his minutes, I was told to limit him to 15-20 minutes. He played 17. He did a great job especially considering he hadn't really been up-and-down [the court] at all for a week. So I'm hopeful that he's going to be able to do more.

Q: he didn't… you had him out the last 5 minutes. Was that because of the timeframe?

BH: no. In other words, he was out for a week. And I was just more comfortable having Dave [Wear] and Kyle in there than Travis because he had missed the last 8 days. And so, that was more of… Dave was playing great. Dave Wear has had a terrific run here recently. He's really played his basketball this season which I'm really excited about.

Q: has the team's reliance on Travis lessened a bit recently, just given how well the freshmen have all played on offense?

BH: not from my standpoint. I mean, like at Stanford, he had 6 defensive boards. That was huge. So you know, no. It definitely weakens us to not have Travis out there than to have him out there at full strength. We need to get him back out there. But we're not going to rush it. We're going to be very conservative as the doctors always are with our players here.

Thank you.

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