Basketball Coaching Candidates

It's entirely premature to assume UCLA will be looking for a new basketball coach this season. But if it were, who would more than likely be the potential candidates?

We would be remiss in our reporting on UCLA sports to not report that Steve Lavin's job as head basketball coach at UCLA is in question.


Given the history and the intensity of the debate over Lavin's fate, that is all, though, this site will report at this time concerning Lavin's status.


But, also, at this point, it would seem remiss not to list the potential candidates that could be mentioned for the UCLA basketball head coaching job, if it were to become available.  


The biggest factor in who UCLA could possibly hire if the job opened up will be how much money UCLA is willing to spend for its coach. While many fans are looking at UCLA's hiring of its new football coach as an indication as to the process that could occur in searching for a new basketball coach and the money that could be involved, that might not be an accurate indication. The UCLA basketball head coaching job is different than the football coaching job, in many ways.  Even if UCLA were limited by the salary constraints that were evident in the search for the football head coaching job, the position of head basketball coach at UCLA might attract bigger-named coaches willing to take less pay than we saw in football.


The Potential Candidates:


Ben Howland, Pittsburgh Head Coach.  He is one of the hottest coaches in the country, and in college basketball circles, it's justified.  He's considered a very good coach who also hires good assistants.  Fox Sports' Frank Burlison just ranked Pittsburg the #1 team in the nation after Arizona lost to LSU during the weekend.   Howland won the national coach of the year award a year ago. He turned around Northern Arizona before doing it at Pitt.  Being from Southern California, having coached at UC Santa Barbara, and it being fairly known that Howland would want the job, makes him one of the top candidates.  If Pitt were to actually win the national championship, though, that could make it difficult for Howland to leave. And he's becoming such a respected name, he might price himself out of UCLA's budget. Unless a national championship prices Howland out of UCLA's salary league, he seems like a great fit – a good name that won't have to be sold to UCLA's boosters and fans as much as others, and more than likely in the range of affordability. 


Mark Few, Gonzaga Head Coach.  One of the most successful on the west coast in recent years, he continued to build Gonzaga into a powerhouse once Dan Monson left for Minnesota.  He does it with discipline, organization and a good system, and hard-working assistants. There is a question of whether Few is wound too tight for the UCLA job, and whether he'd really want to leave his hometown area to live in Los Angeles.


Rick Majerus, Utah Head Coach.  If the job opens up, he will openly campaign for it. He definitely wants it, and he's wanted it for years. It's a question of whether UCLA and Majerus could reach an accord, given some of his issues. Namely, his health. Secondly, Majerus might not be able to adapt to being the type of team player UCLA wants its coaches to be. Going to alumni and booster dinners, etc., isn't something Majerus does at Utah. Thirdly, Majerus is taken care of financially at Utah, and it's a question whether he'd be willing to take a pay cut to come to UCLA. Fourthly, UCLA would probably have a problem with his lifestyle, living in a hotel, and the way he dresses. So, Majerus would have to probably make some concessions or UCLA would, or both, and UCLA would probably have to pay him some bucks. So all of these issues make it somewhat of a longshot. But the fact that he is clearly one of the best coaches in college basketball and wants the job makes it intriguing.


Pat Douglass, UC Irvine Head Coach.  He's not, reputation-wise, on the same level as some on this list, but he's considered a good coach in college basketball circles. He's the coach that UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero hired at UC Irvine. Guerrero knows him, knows he's a good coach and trusts him. While many fans might clamor for a bigger name, all UCLA really needs to succeed in basketball, with all the advantages it has, is good coaching. And Douglass would almost certainly provide that. He also has a rep for hiring good assistants. It could be tough, though, for Guerrero to pull the trigger here unless Douglass has a good season this year.  But make no mistake: Even though he's not a big name, Douglass can coach and he could be everything UCLA needs.


Ernie Kent, Oregon Head Coach. He fits most of the criteria.  He's considered a good coach, has west coast and Pac-10 ties, has great head coaching experience, and he's Black.  He's Karl Dorrell, if Dorrell had been the head coach at Oregon.  Kent at one time had indicated he would be interested in the UCLA job, but he could now be so entrenched in having built the Oregon program that it could be difficult to leave. Also, going inter-conference isn't something many coaches do. But it's safe to believe Kent would be a candidate.


Mike Montgomery, Stanford Head Coach.  It's unlikely, but he would probably get at least an inquiring phone call. Montgomery is getting tired of always being up against the high academic standards of Stanford's admissions. 


Kelvin Sampson, Oklahoma Head Coach. Hottest Black coach in the country, and he has west coast ties (coached Washington State). The rumor is that he's earmarked to replace Lute Olson at Arizona, but we hear that isn't necessarily the case. We have heard, though, that Sampson could like the smaller, college-town environments, though.  He might cost a good chunk of money, too.  


Roy Williams, Kansas Head Coach. Don't laugh. It is a longshot, but it would be a possibility, and you'd probably hear his name kicked around.  He has said before the only other jobs he would take would be North Carolina and UCLA.  He turned down North Carolina last year, but North Carolina would have some considerable pressure for him, and UCLA wouldn't.  He loves the west coast, he's John Wooden's favorite college coach, he reportedly doesn't get along with the KU athletic director, and knows UCLA's assistant AD, Besty Stephenson, who is from KU.  He could very well be entrenched so deeply in Kansas that he would never leave.  UCLA also probably couldn't afford him, and he'd probably have to take a pay cut for the better chance at winning a national championship at UCLA. Yes, it's a longshot, but you have to consider it. 


Bob Williams, UC Santa Barbara Head Coach.  He has a rep as a good coach, and a good recruiter.  He is well-liked by UCSB's AD, Gary Cunningham, the ex-UCLA head coach who is also close to Guerrero. He's done very well at UCSB, and is having a good year. Williams would probably be a solid name on the secondary list of candidates.


Bobby Braswell, Cal State Northridge Head Coach.  Braswell might be a solid candidate on the second-tier list. He's a good coach and gets a lot out of his teams and players. And he's one of the most respected up-and-coming Black coaches in the game.  His knocks would be that he's only been at Northridge, and he has a rep for being a taskmaster that is sometimes hard to live with.


Quinn Snyder,  Missouri Head Coach. The word is he would want the job badly. But it's unlikely he'd get past the initial name-mentioning stage.  He's young and slick, and is really still unproven. He also has a rep for cutting corners in recruiting.  He's kind of the Rick Neuheisel of the basketball coaching world.


Brad Holland, San Diego Head Coach. Ex-UCLA player,  it's his dream job, and he'd definitely get mentioned, but there are at least a few above him on the list that UCLA would have to strike out with for UCLA to get to him.


Mark Gottfried, Alabama Head Coach.  Ex-UCLA assistant who's doing really well at Alabama (just gained the #1 ranking in the country), it's known that he would probably want the job.  Gottfried, though, would probably be down the list a bit since UCLA might not want any connection to the Harrick era.  Gottfried is also well taken care of at his alma mater, Alabama, and would want some considerable cash to come to UCLA, and it's unlikely UCLA would want to pay for him.


Bill Self, Illinois Head Coach. His name would probably come up, but he more than likely wouldn't leave Illinois unless it was for the Kentucky job or an NBA job. Most consider him a future NBA coach.


Tubby Smith, Kentucky Head Coach. His name would probably get thrown around since the situation at Kentucky isn't great for him right now. But he'd probably price himself out of the UCLA market.


Jay Wright, Villanova Head Coach.  A hot young coach, but is an east coast guy and unlikely that the two sides would get together. 


Tom Crean, Marquette Head Coach. No west coast ties and the fact he's just starting to get it done at Marquette might not get him beyond just a casual mention.


Dana Altman, Creighton Head Coach.  Another pretty hot up-and-coming coach with no west coast ties, but his name will be thrown around for any bigger coaching job openings.


Names that Have Gotten Thrown Around and Probably Will Get Thrown Around More That are Very Unlikely:


Paul Westphal, Pepperdine Head Coach. While on the surface it might make sense, it's an extremely bad fit.  Westphal is a pro style coach since, well, he was a pro coach. His teams play little defense and lack discipline – not exactly the style Dan Guerrero would want.  Also, Westphal, being a former pro coach, isn't exactly a recruiting junkie.  He could possibly be looking for the next step to another pro job.  And he very well might not have the hunger and aggressiveness that UCLA could really use.   And being a USC guy, he's openly made jokes about UCLA in the past.


Henry Bibby, USC Head Coach.  An extreme longshot to everyone who knows anything about the UCLA situation and Bibby as a coach. Bibby isn't exactly an easy personality to get along with. His players don't exactly like him. They might respect him as a coach, but they might not like him. It's not too much to ask that UCLA has a coach that players like and respect. They type of players he recruits wouldn't fit well at UCLA either.  It's just not a good fit all around.


Larry Brown, Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach.  He would probably take some interest in the job if it opened up.  It's unlikely, though, that it would happen.  And it probably wouldn't be because of money since, for Brown, that really isn't a big consideration in his life anymore.  Brown's history of hopping around, his history of NCAA infractions, and his age might deter UCLA the most.  Brown would have to really sell Guerrero, and Brown probably isn't in the stage of his career where he feels he has to sell himself to anyone. 


Jeff Van Gundy, former New York Knicks Coach. He has said that, if he wanted to take a college job, he'd want the UCLA job.  He's considered one of the best coaching minds in the business.  But it's more than likely a longshot; He'd probably want too much money and really, when it came down to it, wouldn't want to coach college basketball.


Merry Christmas!



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