Guerrero Talks About Howland Dismissal

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero talked with the media Sunday night in a conference call about the dismissal of Ben Howland.


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DG: thank you, Alex. And thank all the members of the media for joining us this evening. Just wanted to convey that earlier this afternoon, I met with Coach Ben Howland. We had a nice conversation about the program and a number of things. And subsequent to that discussion, I informed him that we were relieving him of his duties as a head coach at UCLA and that we would be moving forward with a search as soon as possible. I'm ready for questions.

PY: Dan, it's Peter Yoon from ESPN LA. Would you explain some of the reasons that went into the decision?

DG: well, Peter, you know, as we went into this season, there were aspirations to obviously compete for a conference championship and to make a run in the tournament. And certainly we were successful in the former and not as successful on the latter part. However, the evaluation of a coach involves a number of other things besides just wins and losses. And as I looked at the entire program and where I felt we were, especially heading into next year, which obviously was where we needed to look at this point of time. I felt that now was the appropriate time to make the decision to make a change and to get a fresh start.

AK: Dan, this is Andy Katz from ESPN. Jordan Adams, with a broken foot, was not available. You mentioned the latter part about the tournament run. If he doesn't break his foot and UCLA is playing next weekend, how does that change your evaluation and the status?

DG: well, first of all, Andy, you know, that was very unfortunate that that occurred to Jordan. Jordan was, in a lot of ways, the heart and soul of this team and certainly to lose him in that game was a critical loss for us. And to answer your question, it's speculative. You know, it didn't happen. So there's no need to really dwell on it. I think the important thing though is when you look at that particular injury and what was left of our roster in a general sense, I think it's important to note that, you know, the fact that we had such a depleted roster in many respects is in part a reason… one of the reasons for making the decision.

Q: What was the exact buyout?

DG: Let's see. Obviously the compensation that remains defaults to the contract itself. And the contract still had 5 years remaining. It is a total package of $3.5 million dollars. The first year is $2.3 million. And then it's $300,000 a year for the next 4 years. All of that is subject to mitigation. Which means that if he gets another job at any point in time from this point forward, whatever those dollars are, are mitigated. Mitigate the compensation that we owe.

CF: Dan, it's Chris Foster. How are you doing? I just wanted to ask you. Last year, at the end of the year, you and Ben had sat down and talked. There was a lot of turmoil about the program. The story that was out. Missing the tournament. Were there parameters or benchmarks that he needed to make this year that he just didn't reach, coming out of that meeting?

DG: you know, Chris, I wouldn't say that there were really tangible benchmarks. Obviously there were a lot of issues that were raised by a number of sources last year. You know, we did not have a successful year on the court as you well know. On the other hand, we were on the road for the most part as Pauley [Pavilion] was getting renovated. And so it was understandable that it might be a difficult year. So I took that into consideration as we move forward. There were a number of challenges obviously that we face subsequent to last year, but as we move forward into the new year… you know, I've been with Ben for, at that point, for nine years. Great relationship. I enjoy working with Ben and I felt that… I wanted to give him the opportunity to continue with the program, trying to move it forward and see if we can get it on stable footing and so that's what I did.

CF: the other thing I wanted to ask is that you talked about looking into next year, in making this decision. How much of that is also trying to create a much more profitable atmosphere at Pauley Pavilion?

DG: well, you know there are multiple factors that dictate whether people come to games or not, Chris, as you well know. I would certainly not lay all of that on Ben's shoulders by any stretch of the imagination, but we do need to generate as much fan support as we can. And to get people into the seats. It's one of the marque sports here at UCLA, certainly men's basketball and football are the economic drivers for our entire program, and we do need to be clicking on all cylinders in that regard.

CF: that being said, what factors into hiring a new coach that will wow that fan base?

DG: well, obviously as we move forward, we're going to try to bring someone here that will excite the fan base, that will work with our student-athletes and get them to compete at a high level. There's a lot to sell when it comes to UCLA. Great university. Great academic tradition. Great basketball tradition. Terrific facility in Pauley Pavilion. We play in a wonderful conference. We're in a great location. Fertile recruiting base. I mean, there's a number of positives that a coach would look at as they come to UCLA.

CF: are you interested in a coach that will be continuing with the one-and-done type athletes?

DG: Well, obviously, you're trying to recruit the very best student-athletes that you can. But it's important for us to recruit student-athletes that can make the grade and graduate. And we'll certainly look at all of them.

AK: Dan, where does the money come from the buyout?

DG: We have an $80 million budget, Andy. And we're going to incorporate the buyout as part of that budget. You know, we're always seeking support from a number of sources to help us out in that regard. And, you know, I believe we've got it covered. And that's just a part of doing business.

MW: Mark Whicker from the Orange County Register. Dan, I'd like to know… I wanted to ask you about the new coach. What is the template for hiring him? And do you have a couple names that you're going to call, on your mind?

DG: well, Mark, I don't think I can reveal any names that I have on my mind at this point in time certainly. Now that we're moving into a search mode, I have an idea on where we'd like to go. You know, it's a UCLA tradition. We're looking at individuals that can fit this university. That can recruit the kind of student-athletes that will thrive academically but obviously be able to compete at the highest level in the country. And we're excited about the prospects of doing that search.

TP: Dan, this is Tracy Pierson at Fox Sports. How much did style of play come into the equation in regard to Ben and how much will you factor that in when you're hiring a coach?

DG: Well, we'll look at everything, Tracy, just in a general sense. I know Ben got a lot of knocks for style of play, but you know what? Ben Howland's a very good coach. People sort of knock him because we're more of a half-court, defense-oriented type team. I think you saw this year that that kind of shifted a little bit. I think we pushed the ball a lot more, scored at a much higher rate. I know our fans like that. And obviously in some respects, in many respects, it's about entertainment. And Chris [Foster] asked a question earlier about getting fans in the stands. We'll look at someone that can play a fun brand of basketball, but also a quality brand of basketball. I mean, fundamentals are still important. Ability to defend is still important. But certainly we don't want to bring in a coach that's going to average 50 points a game.

AK: Will you commit the search by yourself or will you have the aid of a search committee?

DG: We'll be looking at that as we move forward. I don't want to get into the details of that at this at this point in time.

Q: Dan, when did you make this decision?

DG: well, honestly, the decision was made today. I flew back last night, or yesterday, from Austin, got into LA about 4:30. About an hour later, I contacted the chancellor and we had a long discussion. And Ben, I contacted him again this morning, after I sat on things and then when I met with Ben, obviously I told him at that point that we were going to move forward and so that basically is how it worked.

v Q: where did you meet with him?

DG: here in my office.

TP: Dan, if there are coaches that are still involved in the NCAA Tournament, will you wait until they've completed their participation in the tournament before you contact them?

DG: one more time.

TP: I said, if there are coaches that you're interested in that are still involved in the NCAA Tournament, will you wait until their participation is over before you contact them?

DG: yes, that's correct.

CF: Dan, will you limit your search to college coaches or will you look at somebody that has some NBA experience as well?

DG: Chris, we're going to cast the net broadly. You now, obviously, college coaches are certainly the priority in some respects, but we know there are a lot of other outstanding coaches that coach in the NBA and we'll take a look and see what's out there and we'll bring in someone that will do a great job for us.

Q: is there anyone on the staff that will be retained or [audio difficulties]

DG: you know, I haven't had an opportunity to talk to all the members of the staff, face to face. Certainly I was able to contact many of them tonight, before we made the announcement. And I will be meeting with them, face to face, tomorrow morning.

Thank you all for the time and look forward to obviously moving forward with the program and the search. Q: thanks, Dan.

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