Saturday, May 25

New men’s basketball assistant coach Phil Mathews has old ties to SoCal

Coach Ben Howland announced Monday that former Nebraska assistant coach Phil Mathews will fill the UCLA assistant coaching vacancy created by Donny Daniels.

Coach Ben Howland announced Monday that former Nebraska assistant coach Phil Mathews will fill the UCLA assistant coaching vacancy created by Donny Daniels. NEBRASKA ATHLETICS

The position has been filled.

On Monday, UCLA men’s basketball coach Ben Howland announced the hiring of Phil Mathews as an assistant coach. Mathews replaces Donny Daniels, who left the staff earlier this offseason to take a similar position at Gonzaga.

The new hiring reunites a pair of old friends who, as Howland put it, met each other “way, way back in the day.” The relationship dates back 28 years to when Howland was an assistant coach at UC Santa Barbara, and Mathews at Cal State Fullerton.

“He’s a good coach, a very good recruiter, a good person, he’ll represent the university in a first-class fashion, so I feel very fortunate,” Howland said of Mathews.

Mathews will leave his job as an assistant on Doc Sadler’s staff at Nebraska, where he has coached for the past four seasons. His previous Division I position was at the University of San Francisco, where he was head coach from 1995 to 2004. Mathews is a Southern California native who played collegiately at UC Irvine, the same school that he began his coaching career as an assistant in 1973.

“Growing up in Southern California, I grew up as a Bruin fan,” Mathews said. “UCLA is a great place to play and coach at. You always want that opportunity as a young player and young coach to come back to Southern California to be a part of a great tradition.”

According to Howland, one of Mathews’ most appealing assets is his network of relationships and contacts in the region, and four years in the Big 12 gives him exposure on the national stage. Additionally, the new assistant is the father of Jordan Mathews, a current high school freshman who could end up being a major recruit as his high school career progresses.

“He has great relationships,” Howland said. “What’s important to me is the ties that he has to the Southern California community, as that is our No. 1 place where we recruit from.”

That isn’t the only father-son dynamic that relates to the new hiring. Although he has spent the bulk of his coaching career away from Los Angeles, Mathews does have one connection to next year’s UCLA team.

At Ventura College, where he coached from 1986 to 1995, Mathews coached both the father and uncle of incoming freshman Tyler Lamb. The younger Lamb, who has spoken with Mathews on a few occasions, knows nothing but praise for his newest coach.

“I know my dad and my uncle, they were very happy, and I’m happy as well,” Lamb said of his family’s reaction to the hiring. “I’ve talked to him a couple times before, and I’ve heard nothing but great stories about him, so I’m excited to be able to play for him.”

As to which of the Mathews-coached family members would win in a game of one-on-one?

“Me,” Tyler Lamb said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t give (my dad) a chance.”

The hiring of Mathews will likely be greeted with much positivity for a program that has seen its fair share of turmoil in recent months, both on and off the court.

Howland acknowledged that Mathews could and would be a factor in the remainder of the 2010 recruiting period, and he added that the Bruins are still planning on adding players.

For the guy that Howland called his “No. 1 choice from the get-go,” getting right to work shouldn’t be much of an issue. After all, it’s not like Mathews needs to familiarize himself much with his new boss.

“I’ve known Ben for 28 years. We go a long way back, so this is going to be a good situation for both of us,” Mathews said. “(Nebraska) was a great place to work, but I’m a Southern California kid. To get the opportunity to come back and coach at a place like UCLA, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Leaving for Las Vegas

and Waco

Rising sophomore forward Mike Moser, who announced he was transferring from UCLA earlier this month, has committed to UNLV just one day after going on a weekend visit.

Meanwhile, Baylor in Waco, Texas, announced that it has added rising junior center J’Mison Morgan to its roster. Morgan, a Dallas native, was dismissed from the UCLA team after the season.

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