Group #1: The Elite Coaches Who Are Probably Longshots
In this group is Kansas's Roy Williams, Lousville's Rick Pitino and Stanford's Mike Montgomery. Each would have an immediate impact on the program and turn it around quicker than the other candidates.
Group #2: Ben Howland
Yes, the Pittsburgh head coach is in a group all his own, since he's the most unique candidate being mentioned. He has a foot in Group #1, while not proven quite enough to really be in Group #1 completely.
Group #3: The Big-Named Coaches That, For Whatever Reason, Are Unlikely to Be Considered Seriously
This is a fairly long list, including Larry Brown, Rick Majerus, Bobby Knight, Mike Dunleavy and others.
Group #4: The Coaching Names That UCLA Can Almost Certainly Afford
This includes Gonzaga's Mark Few, Lon Kruger (since money won't probably be an issue), Creighton's Dana Altman, Tim Floyd (see Lon Kruger), Oregon's Ernie Kent, Marquette's Tom Crean, San Diego's Brad Holland, Irvine's Pat Douglass, and UC Santa Barbara's Bob Williams.
How it Might Proceed
UCLA will have to investigate the interest of the coaches in Group #1. If UCLA and a coach in that group can reach an accord, it more than likely won't go beyond Group #1.
There are many logical reasons, some known from inside sources and others that just plainly make logical sense, that UCLA's search will probably go beyond Group #1. The primary, common reason would be the present situations each coach in this group has at his current job, and their inability to leave those situations, either because of money, loyalty or both.
The group that will have the most critical impact on who ultimately is named the next UCLA head coach is Group #2. That would be Ben Howland. If for UCLA, the prospect of the coaches in Group #1 coming to UCLA don't look promising, sources indicate that it really is Howland's job if he wants it.
Whether he wants it enough is a question, though. And many factors might contribute to his level of interest. Some of the most recent news we've heard is that intermediaries representing UCLA and Howland have had discussions, and they are considerably distant in reaching an accord. So distant that many insiders believe it's unlikely Howland will be the next coach. There are many that believe this stance could be nothing more than a negotiation ploy, while others are convinced it's genuine. The question will be whether Howland will accept the best package that UCLA can offer him. It also could depend on whether his negotiating stance kills the deal.
But the direction of the coaching search depends considerably on how the Howland situation develops. If UCLA and Howland can't come to an accord, and this comes after the coaches from Group #1 have been investigated and abandoned, the coaching search then would go in a considerably different direction.
That direction would be Group #4. Among this group, it would more than likely come down to which coach is the best fit in the judgment of athletic director Dan Guerrero.
You would have to speculate, based on information we have, that the favorites in this group would be Few and Kruger. Few has been on Guerrero's short list for a while. Kruger, sources indicate, is now on the list. It's known that Kruger wants the job. It's not entirely certain if Few does. He has indicated he would want to make a move to a program that gives him a better chance to reach Final Fours, but he could feel that he personally isn't a good fit for the UCLA environment. If Few decides he does want the job, and the search gets to this level, Few might very well be a pretty good bet to be UCLA's next head coach.
If the deal can't get done with either Few or Kruger, then Holland, Kent, Altman, Floyd, Crean and Douglass might be the next line of possibilities. Among those, there are sources that indicate Holland could be the current preference. It's believed that Kent could very well be trying to use the UCLA opening to leverage his current situation at Oregon.
Group #3 most likely won't even come into play in the coaching search. A coach from this group being considered seriously by UCLA would be highly unlikely, given the information we know.