Sports Illustrated Story On UCLA Basketball Exposes Ben Howland’s Lack of Control

Society, we’re in trouble. No, I’m not talking about the news that Snooki has a bun in the oven. (But that, too, is reason to believe that the world has gone mad.)

No, I’m talking about drama other than the type that lives down at The Shore.

There’s a problem at the University of California Los Angeles, and mens’ basketball coach Ben Howland is at the problem’s epicenter.


UCLA coach Ben Howland (Photo via

A Sports Illustrated story included in the March 5 edition has recently been released to the public – via the Internet. It chronicles the decline of the UCLA Bruins under Howland’s control, or lack thereof.

The story describes Howland’s lax approach to controlling his players – he prefers that they govern themselves. The result of this oral policy was a total boost in arrogance by the players who labeled themselves as “stars”.

What does it look like when players with irrationally big egos aren’t given restrictions? Well, it certainly isn’t pretty – it’s the farthest thing from that.

The article details multiple reports of drug use (marijuana and Ecstasy), excessive alcohol use, physical altercations, etc. How exactly did Howland respond to these acts? He turned a cold shoulder, and let his team free fall deeper into ineptitude.

Could this really be the same coach that led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006 to 2008? I just can’t fathom this.

While Howland played Olé Defense against his players’ off the court activities, some of the problems were out of his control.

Forward Reeves Nelson was coming off a great 2010-2011 season, averaging over 13 ppg. But Nelson also was one of the Bruin’s most outspoken players.

He would frequently mouth off and usually instigated fights at practice. And these were no ordinary fights. Three of Nelson’s teammates missed time during the season due to injuries sustained in brawls that Nelson incited.

These were just a few of Nelson’s transgressions that led to his dismissal from the team late in 2011.

A guy with such promise and possible NBA talent was reduced to worthlessness. That can’t happen in our society today. I’m not saying Nelson would have moved mountains in the future, but we as humans need new leaders to surface and evolve as much as possible.

Looking away from problems is not the way to do that. Coach Howland is not the only coach or person in America guilty of this. That is a given.

The problems also go a few years back, too. Former Bruin star Kevin Love recalled problems on the 2007-2008 team. Lucky for him he used his talent to go above and beyond the problems and become an NBA All-Star (and 2012 Three-Point Contest Champion).

There’s a fine line between restrictions and malicious intentions. Howland failed to find it. He was worried about turning his players off, but they did that on their own. This story will likely derail any possible hopes that Howland had for the immediate future.

All that can be done now is for Howland and Co. to face the music, and sing the Bruin’s blues.

About Danny Bayliss

A senior in high school, Danny is the sports columnist and sports chief for his school's award-winning newspaper. Danny is also an award-winning journalist himself. He’ll be attending Syracuse University next year, which has the nation’s top journalism school. Once at Syracuse he will be writing and broadcasting for, a site dedicated to SU athletics and recruiting. In addition to MSF, Danny is a columnist for and a contributor to Danny does some podcasts for various sites on the side. Ideas/Journalistic Opportunities/Etc. should be sent to Follow him on Twitter (@dbaybucks) for his articles, witty remarks, sports observations, and thoughts inside the mind of a prodigy.


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