Thursday, June 01, 2006

One-on-One with UCLA Coach Ben Howland

By Steve Galluzzo, Sports Editor

UCLA Coach to Host Camp in Palisades

When it comes to rebuilding a program, UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland is as good as anyone on the hardwood. In just his third season with the Bruins, Howland was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year after guiding his youthful team to the conference title and its first NCAA Finals appearance since 1995. He is one of only a few coaches to lead three different schools to the NCAA tournament, having previously done it at Northern Arizona in 1998 and Pittsburgh in 2002 and 2003.

In July, Howland and his staff will host a youth basketball camp at Palisades High. In an interview with Palisadian-Post Sports Editor Steve Galluzzo last week, Howland shared his thoughts about the Bruins' remarkable season, his upcoming camp and his future at UCLA:

PP: Why did you decide to host your basketball camp in the Palisades?

BH: We wanted to have another camp in addition to what we're allowed to do on campus. A lot of kids from that area are interested in UCLA basketball so we thought it would be a good fit. This will be our first year [at Palisades High] and we hope to have it there for many years to come.

PP: What do you hope to achieve through your youth camps?

BH: To expose young kids to the game of basketball. We want them to learn the fundamentals and have fun with it. I'll be there every day. We'll have different guest speakers coming in. We've put together a great staff and I'm looking forward to it.

PP: Do you have any personal connections to Palisades High?

BH: Sure. [Boys varsity coach] James Paleno has worked at our camps ever since I've been here. He's a very good coach. I also have friends in the administration like Rose Gilbert. She's a huge UCLA fan and it's neat that she's still there teaching English. I also know Ann Davenport, the head counselor. Her son played for me when I was an assistant at UC Santa Barbara.

PP: Now that you've had time to reflect, can you put last season in perspective?

BH: I'm very pleased with the year we had. Winning the Pac-10 championship, winning the Pac-10 tournament and getting UCLA to the Final Four for only the second time in 25 years is something to be proud of, especially considering the adversity we went through and all the injuries we had. The only disappointment is that we didn't win our last game against Florida.

PP: Did you think you would enjoy so much success so quickly at UCLA?

BH: At both Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh we won the conference championship in my third year. We've done the same here and that was our expectation. Usually by your third year you expect to be good so I'm very excited.

PP: How would you compare the Pac-10 to other conferences, like the Big East?

BH: I'd say it's pretty similar. There might be a little more physicality in the east in terms of how they allow you to play. In the past, west coast teams have been at a disadvantage in the NCAA tournament because they weren't accustomed to that style but not as much now. Top to bottom, we're as strong as any conference in the country.

PP: Do you subscribe to the so-called "east coast" bias among the media?

BH: I think it still exists but hopefully we helped change that. The thing that hurts us most is the time change. People in the east don't get to see us as much because by the time our games start it is 10:30 at night there.

PP: How difficult is it to keep your best players from leaving school early?

BH: Football is so different because kids have to stay for three years. In basketball they only have to stay for one year beyond their high school graduating class. So it's a much different deal. It comes down to what is best for our players. If a kid is able to go to the NBA as a top 20 pick and the team that has chosen him has made a real commitment to him, then yes, he needs to consider that. Two of our best kids [Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo] are working out with NBA teams right now and will have to make a decision. Adam Morrison of Gonzaga is a great example of a player who benefited from an extra year in college. If he had come out last year he would've been 16th or 17th in the draft. This year he's going be a top three pick for sure. But every situation is unique.

PP: What is your philosophy in terms of recruiting?

BH: There is so much talent right here in L.A. so it starts locally and branches out. You always looking for the best players, however you have to meet your position needs too. We look for kids who are good players, good athletes and who are coachable. On top of all that they have to be good students. Not everybody can make it here academically. We find kids all the time that I'd like to recruit except they simply don't have the grades.

PP: Do you feel more pressure to win now that you're coaching at UCLA?

BH: It's more about what you put on yourself than any pressure you might feel from the alumni or the fans. I knew what I was getting into. This school has the greatest tradition in all of college basketball so of course the expectations are higher.

PP: Are you pleased with how the sport has evolved over the years?

BH: It's become a global game. Just look at the Olympics and how many good teams there are. It's no longer the United States and everybody else. We expect to be the best because basketball was invented here but we have our work cut out for us. Ours is the greatest game going for both spectators and players and the world has picked up on that. They say soccer is No. 1 worldwide but we're gaining.

PP: Do you see yourself coaching in the NBA someday?

BH: I get asked that question a lot but the truth is I'm very happy here. This is right where I want to be. I want to be just like [former UCLA coach] John Wooden--I want to finish my career at UCLA.

(Ben Howland's Palisades camp will run from July 17-21 at Palisades High. It is open to boys and girls ages 6-12. For more information call 310-279-8303 or visit the web site:

(reprinted with permission)



At Jun 1, 2006, 3:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew 2 years ago that he was going to turn things around. After seeing a couple games, I could see the stark differences in the offense and defense structure from Lavin's teams. What a brilliant hire by Guerrero.

At Jun 1, 2006, 5:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although no one will ever acheive the level of success Coach John Wooden's teams, Coach Ben Howland is well on his way to building his own dynasty at UCLA.


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