Howland Says Goodbye

Departing coach Ben Howland expressed appreciation and respect for UCLA in a press conference Monday...


BH: well, thanks to all of you for being here. I want to start off by thanking Chancellor [Gene] Block, Chancellor [Norman] Abrams, and Chancellor [Albert] Carnesale, who was the Chancellor who hired me ten years ago, for giving me the extraordinary opportunity to work and represent the greatest university in the world. I'm so proud to have been a part of the Bruin family and feel honored and privileged to have been at UCLA these past ten years. I'm especially thankful to Dan Guerrero who hired me and who I've worked with closely throughout my tenure. I can't thank him enough for the opportunity he gave me, and I enjoyed our working relationship, his support, and his regard for all that we've accomplished. I wish Dan continued success in sustaining the premier athletic program in the country.

During my tenure at UCLA, I've been so blessed to coach so many wonderful young men. I've been given the opportunity to work with some of the greatest players in the history of UCLA basketball. I love them. I care about them very much. And I care about their lives, and I will be there for them for the rest of my life. The pride of being a Bruin is something that will always be a part of who I am. And I've helped our players come to recognize the same feeling and pride of being part of this great and historic tradition of UCLA basketball. This recognition has been very special to me, and I have always emphasized how incredible it is to be a part of this program and this university. One of my greatest joys as a coach, as any coach feels, is the relationship with your players and your former players. And being a part of their lives is something that's special and dear to me. And they're lifelong relationships. I have players that I coached back when I started in this business 32 years ago. It's amazing. They're 49 years old now. I started really young so I was very blessed. But such bonds are forged with tremendous effort, sacrifice, unselfishness, and dedication. And I'm indebted to all the past and present players and all that have given to UCLA basketball and to me as their coach.

During my time here, I've had an incredible good fortune to work with a number of great coaches, both past and present. Much of this program's success is a direct result of our coaches, and it's been an honor and privilege to work with so many great assistant coaches. I am so proud of jobs that Phil Mathews [Assistant Coach], Scott Garson [Assistant Coach], Korey McCray [Assistant Coach], Tyus Edney [Director of Operations], Jason Ludwig [Director of Scouting, Player Development] have done here during their tenure and really proud of what they have accomplished this year. I don't think I could ever appropriately thank them for what they have done. I'm so proud of them and appreciate them so much and their families for all they've sacrificed. I wish them nothing but the absolute best in their futures. I will help them obviously, moving forward, in any way possible. I want to continue to thank my basketball administrator, Doug Erickson [Director of Basketball Administration], who's been with the program now 22 years, and his support and friendship over the past 10 years has been phenomenal. I also want to thank my secretary, Arielle Moyal [Administrative Assistant], who's been nothing short of being fantastic in her support of me, my family, and this program.

There are so many incredible people on our staff that have helped our players develop. And I'd want to start by recognizing our academic coordinator, Kenny Donaldson [Asst. Dir. of Academic Services], who has been stellar over the last 9 years. He's been a mentor, a guide, a role model for our basketball players. He has always helped them with the primary mission of being a student-athlete here, and that's working toward and receiving one of the best educations in the country. And I'm especially proud of every player, that we've had during my tenure here that stayed the four years, has graduated. Really, really proud of that. during my time at UCLA, I've had the good fortune again to work with great trainers and some of the best medical staff in the country. The physical well-being of our players could not have been attended to anywhere, by anyone, better than here at UCLA. Our medical community is one of the best in the world, and I think that's well recognized. And I want to personally thank Laef Morris [Senior Athletic Trainer], our trainer. Dr. Gerald Finerman [Head Team Physician, Athletic Training/Sports Medicine], our team physician. John DiFiori. Dr. John DiFiori [Assoc. Head Team Physician] and Dr. Ray Padilla [Team Dentist], our team dentist. For just the outstanding dedication of work to help our players. I also want to thank Brent Tanaka [Assistant, Athletic Performance Department], our strength coach who does a tremendous job with our players. And really works hard to help them develop and reach their potential.

I want to now recognize my wife. Kim's here today. I've been so blessed to have such a wonderful wife and family. I am really thankful for their bountiful support during my tenure here at UCLA. My wife, Kim, has been an exceptional coach's wife. And my daughter, Meredith, my son, Adam. Couldn't have two more wonderful children, and I'm really proud that both of my children earned degrees here at UCLA. And that this makes me feel really, really good. It is not easy being the family of a coach or a wife of a coach. And God has blessed me so much with their exceptional, strong, and loyal support.

I'm very thankful to all the other people that make UCLA basketball what it is. The ticket office, the sports information, marketing, facilities, the development departments. There isn't enough time for me to thank everybody appropriately here today or we'll never get out of here. But there's so many people involved in making this program successful, and I'm so appreciative of all of them and all of their hard work and dedication these past ten years. And I'm really proud of what they have accomplished during my ten years here, on and off the floor. I've watched our players grow from young men to young adults. I've been happy [that] I could have been a part of their maturation process and development. I appreciate all the fans and their support for me and my family. And I appreciate the media for their fairness in covering our program and I'm very appreciative of the relationships I've had with many of you in this room today.

And I'm excited about the future. I'm excited about moving forward. And I'm looking forward to the next chapter. I'm excited about coaching again. I'm grateful for all the experiences and relationships and feel they'll contribute toward my continuing growth and success as a coach. I look forward to my next opportunity and I wish all of my UCLA family the very best, going forward.


Q: Coach, Rebecca Hall, KTLA. Considering what you've had to work with in the PAC-12 Tournament this year. Your second leading scorer out with an injury, starting the [NCAA] Tournament. Do you feel like you were given a fair shake?

BH: you know, we had a great year this year. I'm so proud of our players and our coaches. You know, to win the PAC-12 Championship. It was really a tough break for, #1, Jordan Adams, and #2, to lose arguably our best all-around player and the second leading scorer. But that's a part of this game. Injuries are a part of it and it's unfortunate but I'm really, really proud of all that we've accomplished by this team this year. And feel very good about leaving here with a good nucleus. I want all those kids to continue to have great success here, and excited about their futures.

Q: Coach, we know this is a very emotional day for you. How difficult was it for you to concentrate on coaching throughout the course of the year when all the stories around were talking about your future here as the head coach?

BH: you know what? I've really become good at just focusing on what I'm doing. I mean, It's the honest truth that whenever I tell you that I'm just focused on coaching the team and helping them be the best that they can become, that's really how I felt. So I'm just so thankful for all the support that I've received during my ten years here. And I'm really, really thankful for the opportunity again to represent such a great school, a great university, an unbelievable program.

Q: do you think the ghost of John Wooden as it were is something that coaches should be aware of here because nationally, there's these questions as to, "why would UCLA take this action against you with the success you've had in 10 years?"

BH: I'll tell you, Coach Wooden's success here is unprecedented. I said that ten years ago. That there'll never be another Coach Wooden and there's never going to be another Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. I mean, they're one-of-a-kind. I actually used Michael Jordan, ten years ago. But it's a place that has such high expectations, and that's understandable. And I'm proud of the Final Fours that we went to. I'm proud of the PAC-12 Championships we've won. And I'm really proud of our players. I'm just so proud of the kids that have gone on to play professionally and the kids that are doing successful things in their business lives, education, entertainment. So many different fields and areas out there. I will always feel great about my experience here at UCLA and I'm just so lucky and I feel so blessed.

Q: Ben, a number of coaching jobs are already opening up now. Your name is going to come up. What are your intentions? [audio difficulties] Do you want to coach next season? Or do you want to take a year off?

BH: you know what? This is all happening quickly so I haven't really sat back and talked to Kim about that a whole lot, but I definitely want to coach. You know, whether that's going to happen this year or next year remains to be seen. But I'm very excited. I'm excited about the job we did here this year. And feel like I have a lot to offer. And I'm just so proud of everything we've accomplished here. And feel so good about it. And I'm just really, really pleased.

Q: Ben, as you leave here, 10 years of experience here at UCLA, what advice would you give the next guy coming over about dealing with the expectations that come with this job?

BH: they're going to get a great coach. There'll be a great coach that will come in and replace me and I just wish him the very best. I will always be proud and excited to have been a part of this history and tradition here. I think, when you look at this brand new building that is in place now, and you look at a nice nucleus of kids, and potentially a lot of good local kids to recruit here in the next two years, with the classes coming up, I think it's a great situation. So they're not going to have any problem finding a great coach to come in here and do a good job.

Q: but what would you advise to him about dealing with the external pressures that come with this job.

BH: you know, they're not going to hire a rookie. I think whoever they hire will be well-versed in that.

Q: Ben, you didn't have to come here today. Why would you want to?

BH: oh, you know, I've always felt like I've always been very forward and honest and, you know, I wanted to come here to thank everyone for my opportunity as I've stated. From the chancellors and Dan and everyone's who's been a part of my life during my tenure here as a coach, and I'll always be so thankful and appreciative of everyone for everything they've done.

Q: and just a follow-up. Were you able to talk to players? Had a chance to…

BH: well, you know, we're on spring break right now. So I've met with some of them. Reached out to all of them on the phone. Talked to two of them. I encouraged them all to continue to work hard and to develop. I've had long conversations with a few of them. And I will, moving forward. I'm nothing but supportive of these kids and their futures here at UCLA. And really, really want to be there for them anyway I can until, you know, otherwise.

Q: Coach, how much do you think some of your recruiting missteps sort of led to this happening?

BH: you know, that's not for me to answer. You'd have to talk to the university.

Q: Coach, considering you were coming off a conference championship, what type of precedence do you think this sets for all coaches thinking about this position?

BH: you know, that's something that you guys can answer better than me. I'm just excited about everything that has happened during my tenure here. I feel really good about it and really proud of it. I'm excited about the future and looking forward to what comes next. So many great things have happened during my life here. Most recently, in the last year, we welcomed a grandson into the world here. And that's just been such a great joy to have my wife, Kim, be watching him 2, 3 days a week over at her house. So I feel very fortunate and blessed.

Q: can you go into some of the duties outside of coaching that come with a high profile job like this?

BH: I don't understand your question. Do you want me to give you my past job description?

Q: no. people say that a job like this, a job like Kentucky, is so much more than basketball. You have to go out, you've got to shake hands…

BH: there's a lot of different parts. It's very complex. And there's a lot that goes into it. No question. And I feel like I'm better for the experience. There's no question that in my next job I will have benefitted so much from this opportunity. It is going to really help me do better. It's the same thing I preach to my players. About improving and about getting better. And I thought this year, we really did a great job offensively. Pushing the ball. Leading the league in scoring. And you know, it's always about continuing to evolve.

Q: two parts. The first one, best moment of the last ten years and then your toughest moment of the last ten years?

BH: you know, there's been so many great moments. I don't know if there's a "best." But I guess, if I'm sitting here, I would say the Gonzaga win [March 23, 2006 NCAA Tournament] would come to mind first. Being down 17 with 10 minutes to go, what ended up being a national championship final game, before losing to Florida. And as a coach, you always remember the losses way better than you do the wins so that would be… if you get me after, we can talk for an hour.

Q: and then how long did it take you… I know you prepared that because you wanted to thank a certain amount of people but how long did that take you? Was that an emotional…

BH: it took me… I was working on it yesterday and today. I could've gone a lot longer. There's so many people to thank. Saying goodbye. I'm just so appreciative of everyone.

Q: Ben, your success obviously speaks for itself and what you've accomplished here. Going to Final Fours three times and obviously the conference championships. As you talk about your wife and your grandkids now, will you apply some of the, for lack of a better word, "hard knocks" lessons of life that you learned here, getting fired with that much success, to the next job that's offered to you and potentially it might be on the east coast.

BH: so I'm trying to understand…

Q: simply, what will you apply from what you've learned here, being fired in the situation, to evaluating what jobs you'll take next?

BH: you know what? I mean, I'm hopeful that I'll have an opportunity to get another good job. And that, you know, is something that I'd be very excited about. I feel like I've got a lot to offer. That being said, everything is all-encompassing what you learn from a job. This is a historic, unbelievable place to represent. You bring up Coach Wooden. It was so great to have a relationship. I mean, I had a relationship with John Wooden. I spoke at his memorial service right out there on that floor. And I have things that I think about that I've been a part of because I was the head coach of UCLA that I will always cherish. And I think it's well-documented that I grew up loving this program as a kid. This was a dream for me, coming true, to be here. I've had a lot of opportunities in the past to go to places and make a lot more guaranteed money, but I never thought about them because I've always wanted to be here. And so that being said, you know, I'm just so appreciative of the ten years that I was able to be here with you all and lead this program.

Q: well, I think we appreciate you as well. Do you… I know it's just happening right now. Do you feel, because of that, and it is well-documented your love of this university, you need a little time off or do you want to get right back into coaching?

BH: you know, I think that's too early to say. Could be next week. It could be next year. I don't know.

Q: so much has been made about this new facility. Pauley Pavilion. "It's beautiful." "It's going to sell out." And then we saw, this season, a lot of games with a lot of empty seats. And then you talk to fans and the alums and they say, "It's a 6 o'clock start time. How do we get through traffic to make it to these games?" What do you have to say about those 6 o'clock start times? Did that play into it, do you think?

BH: well, I think that… first of all, Larry Scott [PAC-12 Commissioner] has done such an unbelievable tremendous job, leading this conference between the new TV contracts… I mean, now that we're on ESPN as a conference as the PAC-12, it totally gets us to a new level as a conference, in terms of visibility, in terms of credibility throughout the country. I mean, he's done a great job. But one of the sidebars of that is you have to play some games that are geared toward east coast audiences. So 6 o'clock here in Westwood are especially difficult, as we all know, because it can take an hour to get from Brentwood over here to the school as we've all experienced. So it's a tough one. But you also look at the revenue. All the PAC-12 teams… PAC-10, now PAC-12, went from getting $6 million a year in TV revenue to $21 million for the next 11 years. So it's a no-brainer. I mean, costs continue to spiral. We've got a lot of sports to support here. And this is the greatest athletic program in the country. And it's really special to be a part of all those other coaches too. Like Al Scates [former UCLA Men's Head Volleyball Coach]. That's one of my heroes. I think about Al and what a run he had in 50 years. But so many great coaches in all the other sports who represent UCLA. It's fun to be a part of that family.

Q: Ben, can you talk about your meeting with Dan yesterday? Was it an emotional one? Did you come in kind of knowing your fate before the meeting?

BH: my meeting with Dan I'll keep personal.

Q: Ben, I recall 10 years ago, one of the things you really emphasized was you wanted to get some more money for your assistants than what assistants have typically been paid at UCLA. Do you have a sense of what's going to happen to your staff?

BH: well, I know that they've met… Dan's been meeting with my staff today and talking to them. I haven't really gotten feedback but I'm going to help them all with their futures. They're all great coaches. They're all going to do really well. I'm excited. I hope that I have, in some way, helped them as they move forward in their careers.

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