It's a Car Wreck

You don't want to watch, but if you're a Bruin basketball fan, you do so anyway, much like driving by a car wreck on the freeway. So, for all you neck stretchers, after the loss to California, here are some of the dubious distinctions of the current basketball program...

If you're a Bruin fan, there's a part of you, a very large part, that wants to go hide in a cave until this is all over.


But there is also another part that wants to watch this.


I called about a dozen Bruin fans I know yesterday during the game. They were all watching it.  Each one.   They tell me that they tell themselves they won't watch, but there is no way to keep from watching. We, of course, want to see if there is a sliver of a chance that this team will miraculously pull it together. Heck, not even for a game, but maybe just for a 5-minute stretch of a game. A sign of life. Some kind of slightly positive harbinger for the future. 


But there is another reason why UCLA fans will watch the rest of the season. Masochistic? Possibly. But there is definitely a part of the UCLA fan that wants to make note of every last embarrassment and outrage.  Even though it's painful, you still reluctantly want to have it in your mind as an anti-reference point. Something to store away but have it remembered, so you have it as a dubious reminder of how not to mismanage the UCLA basketball program. 


It's my only explanation for why UCLA fans – including myself – watch the games.

But I can only explain why we continue to watch every minute of every game as some sub-conscious need to take a strong mental picture of the debacle, as that lasting reminder.


And then there's always the element of the neck-stretcher on a freeway when he passes an accident. You just can't help but look.


So, Bruin fans, here's a full frontal look at the disgraces that have been accomplished by the UCLA basketball program this season. This isn't including everything behind the scenes. This is just the public scars that this season has caused.  If you're squeamish, turn back now.  Bu I know all you Bruin fans/neck stretchers are coming with me.


-- The Cal loss was the sixth in the row for this team this season, the worst for a Bruin team in 55 years. 


-- UCLA is currently 4-11.  Unless they have a miraculous turnaround and make a big run the rest of the Pac-10 season, win the Pac-10 tournament and then get a couple of wins in the NCAA tournament, they are on their way to their first losing season in 55 years.  Again, you decided to look, so I'll tell you one more time: UCLA has the NCAA record for the most consecutive winning seasons, currently standing at 54.


-- It's offensive to think a part of what I just wrote in that last paragraph is so unattainable for any UCLA team ever: to make a big run in the Pac-10 season, win the Pac-10 tournament and then get a couple of wins in the NCAA tournament. How absurd does that sound? How absurd is it that it sounds absurd?


-- The UCLA coach is getting booed in Pauley Pavilion.  That is, among the fans that are there.


-- The UCLA coach is roundly getting cheered on the road, with "We Love Lavin" chants.


-- Beat writers are continuing to cite the "intensity" UCLA displayed in a loss to Stanford Thursday night.  It's not only that the writers are looking for some kind of silver lining to make their stories balanced, but it's even that the writers' expectations are so lowered that the slight effort UCLA made in a bad loss Thursday night legitimately stands out comparatively to the rest of the season.


-- Opposing coaches have the open opportunity to publicly deface the UCLA head coaching job. I think it's ironic that, for a couple of years, there were UCLA fans' whose argument for defending Steve Lavin was they didn't want to hear how the UCLA head coach was doing a poor job because it demeaned the office.  Well, fans, now you have the head coach himself to thank because he's opened the door to every other opposing coach to take their swipe at the office.  And don't think there isn't just a slight motivation here by Pac-10 coaches to send a cautionary message to any potential candidate for the job.


-- The UCLA coach was hired the same year as the Cal coach.  The Cal coach is just a few wins away from bettering the UCLA coach in wins and losses. Lavin is 139-70 and Ben Braun is 132-72.  In other words, most likely by the end of this season, Ben Braun will have done better in wins and losses at Cal than Steve Lavin at UCLA in the last seven years.  Let that one sink in.  It would be even enough of a striking comparison to leave it at just the fact, that one coach did it with Cal and the other did it with UCLA. But to let it sink in further, Ben Braun took over a Cal program on probation, while Lavin took over a UCLA program one year removed from a national championship.


-- There is a senior who is completing a career that will make him the fourth-highest scoring player in school history.  And no one is looking because everyone is too preoccupied with the Lavin car wreck.


-- In the Cal game, UCLA didn't get a rebound until 7:30 into the game.


-- In the last five games, UCLA is scoring an average of 23 points in the first half.


-- Opposing teams are building large leads against UCLA, but then getting bored and losing focus.  The reputation of UCLA basketball has fallen so far that opponents can't stay motivated enough to blow them out, as if UCLA were on the same level as Washington State. 


-- Opposing crowds are fairly quiet. This is with their team leading UCLA consistently throughout the game in double digits. 


-- ESPN wrote after the Cal loss, about the losing streak: "Not since before the days of John Wooden, more than a half-century ago, have the UCLA Bruins been this bad for this long."


-- One Arizona player said they didn't play well against UCLA because they were looking ahead to the Kansas game.  That, in and of itself, is insulting enough. But it's even more insulting that it was in light of Arizona beating UCLA by 35 points, its worst loss in Pauley Pavilion's history.


-- In what many have felt previously was the worse season in UCLA's modern-day history, in 1987-1988 head coach Walt Hazzard was fired at season's end.  In that year, UCLA did go 16-14.  They outscored their opponents by 160 points, 5.3 per game (this season UCLA is getting outscored by 34 points so far, for an average of -2.6 a game).  In 1988, the worst loss was by 13 points (this year, 35 points).  In that season, the team finished tied for second in the Pac-10 with a 12-6 conference record. 


-- UCLA is currently tied with Oregon State for seventh place in the Pac-10 at 2-5.  UCLA has a very good chance to make its worst finish ever in the conference. The worst in UCLA history was, of course, last season when it finished sixth.


-- Oregon State handily beat Washington yesterday and looks like a team that could notch a few more Pac-10 wins this season. Washington also has two wins in the conference, at 2-6.  UCLA will be competing with Washington and Oregon State to make the Pac-10 tournament (the tournament takes the eight teams that finish the highest in the conference standings).  Here is a potential Fox Sports promo for the game against Oregon State next weekend: "A Pac-10 tourney berth could be on the line when the Beavers come to Pauley Pavilion this Saturday." 


-- Again, UCLA is achieving these lows with three McDonald's All-Americans and one of the most talented players in the Pac-10, Dijon Thompson, on its roster.


-- If you have children, and they are seven years old or younger, the only UCLA basketball they know is the last seven years.


-- The prospects in the current high school junior class, the one UCLA will need desperately to recruit well to turn the program around, were only 9 years old when UCLA won its national championship in 1995.  Their impression of UCLA basketball has been predominantly formulated from the last seven years.


-- If Lavin doesn't get another win the rest of the season, he will have not averaged 20 wins a year for his entire tenure.


-- If Lavin doesn't get another win, he'll still have a better winning percentage than Walt Hazzard, but barely. Hazzard won 62.1% of his games. If Lavin doesn't win another game this season, he will have won 62.8% of his games at UCLA.  Hazzard and Lavin easily have the two worst winning percentages of UCLA coaches since John Wooden, the next worse being Larry Brown with 71.2%.


-- UCLA's current Sagarin ranking is 171st in the country. Teams like Wofford, Belmont and Sam Houston State have higher rankings.


-- When you look out on the floor in the middle of recent games, there are times when it looks like it's a group of guys that just stole those UCLA uniforms. At times, making up a majority of the five places on the court have been Janou Rubin, a walk-on; Ryan Walcott, a walk-on level player; Josiah Johnson, a walk-on level player;  Marcedes Lewis, a football player;  and Jon Crispin, a backup who UCLA accepted as a transfer.  Of course, take nothing away from these players for going out there and playing. The onus of the level of talent is definitely hung on the coach.


-- While there is sometimes a low-major group of talent on the floor for UCLA, the Bruins are getting torched by Cal's Joe Shipp for 23 points and Brian Wethers for 17 points. Shipp is from Los Angeles Fairfax High School, and Wethers is from Murietta Valley High School. They're two players who would have come to UCLA but UCLA didn't take them because they thought they weren't good enough. Compared, of course, to Johnson, Walcott or Crispin. 


-- The most losses in a season by a UCLA team is 20.  It seems incomprehensible that UCLA would lose more games than that this season, but anything is potentially possible. With 12 games remaining in the regular season, UCLA is now 9 losses away from tying the record and 10 losses from setting the record at 21.  The last time UCLA lost 20 games was 62 years ago, in 1941.  Teams on the schedule that year were Bank of America, Illinois State Normal, and 20th Century Fox, and the team lost to all three.


Okay, all you Bruin fans/neck stretchers, that's enough. Now you can look away...

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