Thursday, April 25

Court Visions: Fuel opinions by filling stands

UCLA fans have often taken to the internet to call for the firing of coach Ben Howland, although the stands of Pauley Pavilion rarely fill up. Bill Walton, former Bruin basketball player and current TV commentator, made strong remarks on Howland’s performance last weekend.

UCLA fans have often taken to the internet to call for the firing of coach Ben Howland, although the stands of Pauley Pavilion rarely fill up. Bill Walton, former Bruin basketball player and current TV commentator, made strong remarks on Howland’s performance last weekend. Tim Bradbury / Daily Bruin

Seated at the ESPN broadcasting booth Thursday night in Pauley Pavilion, Bill Walton provided his smiling face to a movement.

The calls to fire UCLA men’s basketball coach Ben Howland are reaching a critical mass, even as the Bruins continue to win games and sit in a three-way tie atop the Pac-12.

Now those calls have been aided by Walton’s displeasure, which was broadcast to a national audience. The Bruin great, John Wooden protege and basketball hall-of-famer took numerous digs at Howland during UCLA’s win over Washington before eschewing all subtlety.

“I’m not in charge,” Walton said on the broadcast. “If I were, things would be different.”

The concerns are valid – after 10 seasons of the Howland era, the sample size of UCLA’s longest-tenured coach since Wooden is sufficient enough for everyone to draw their own conclusions.

Fans souring on a coach frequently happens in college sports. How some UCLA fans go about it is deplorable, though, and that’s why the portrait of the Bruins’ base is painted as a fickle one.

Many decide that no-showing at games will make their point. Others pen blog posts about why UCLA winning by 10 instead of 15 is Howland’s fault.

Those actions are more visible than those of the fans who regularly attend games and support the team. UCLA’s reputation as a wavering fan base is earned, not narrated.

Many are with Walton in wanting Howland fired, but at least Walton was in the building to say it himself.

The one thing that set him off on the tirade that basically ended with the call for Howland’s head was the fact that the backdrop for the game was a bunch of empty seats.

Walton is right: Attendance is a major issue this season. Only a few games have filled the new $136 million campus gem to the brim. Thursday wasn’t one of those nights with Pauley a third empty. The Cal Polys and UC Irvines of the college basketball world come to UCLA’s court thinking they can win and then play like it.

Walton says it’s solely because of the coach and his style of play, but like the UCLA fans who keep turning down basketball tickets, I’m not buying that.

The Bruins happen to be having a moderately successful season. They’re also way more entertaining than any other Howland-coached team because he instituted an up-tempo offense. Neither fact is consistently bringing fans to the gate – championship banners and tradition notwithstanding.

UCLA’s fan base, on balance, seems to follow a self-fulfilling prophecy. A good number of local fans expect the team to underachieve because of the coach, don’t go to Pauley and then see their team underachieve on television.

After that, bloggers like those on Bruins Nation, a fan blog, will write posts that call for UCLA to fire Ben Howland.

If you are truly interested in replacing Howland, you would be well served to take a page out of Walton’s book. Voice your opinions from the comfort of a seat in Pauley and make Howland your audience. Boo. Bring a “Fire Howland” sign. Start another “To-ny Par-ker” chant. Whatever.

If you can’t make it, support your players and don’t act as if Howland is some sort of puppet-master pulling the strings on their effort.

You’re not doing a good job of selling this program to prospective future coaches if you can’t stick with the team in sickness and in health – and let’s be clear, save for a couple cases of the flu (figuratively and literally) this has been a healthy season.

Many are in denial, trying to blame the media for portraying them as bad fans, only succeeding in erecting another padded wall around themselves.

I’m not suggesting that a home-court advantage would transform the basketball team or that everyone in Westwood should be in a basketball frenzy – I really value the fact that we have a campus with diverse interests and many people couldn’t care less about sports.

It’s also fine to have high standards like Walton does; he anchored UCLA’s 88-game winning streak in the 1970’s. Howland said as much when he shook off Walton’s comments during a Friday chat with reporters.

Howland took the high road but his swan song was sung on the ESPN airwaves Thursday night. Unfortunately for Walton’s cause and everyone behind it, nobody was there to sing along with him.

Email Menezes at [email protected] or tweet him at @ryanvmenezes.

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  • Old timer

    As an old timer (since 76), I have seen this happen before, but what is most troubling is the lack of class from the the guys at Bruin nation. These guys show no class or maturity when it comes to UCLA and Morgan center. I wonder where these guys were brought up and what manners they were taught? Specially the kid with the strange name whom I think may be USC trojan posing as a Bruin

    • angriestdogintheworld

      Put the doughnut down, Dan. You are no J.D. Morgan. And Gene Block is no Charles Young. If you had really been around since 1976, you would know that.

      • Old timer

        You sound more like a little puppy than a dog to me. Thank you for proving my point that you were brought up somewhere south of westwood. your hatred for me or Dan comes from the fact that you wish you could ever elevate to the same level as Dan in life.

        • angriestdogintheworld

          You are the one defending mediocrity at U.C.L.A., which is in the interest of someone from Southern Cal. You are no Bruin, that is for sure.

          • maze949

            You just got embarrassed, “mangiest”…go away, little pup.

          • angriestdogintheworld

            Hahahahahaha! Looks like I hit a nerve. Stay classy, trojie.

        • Shekib

          Nicely said.

      • maze949

        Put Ty’s lil cock down…you’re no HI swim coach. If you ever stopped hiding behind a keyboard, you would know that.

        • angriestdogintheworld

          Another lesson in what classiness means to a Howland supporter. Thank you for showing the true colors of the mediocrity movement.

        • angriestdogintheworld

          Nothing like a little homophobic hate speech from a pro-trojie Howler. You represent Howland’s supporters perfectly.

          And thank you, Daily Bruin for enabling homophobia and hate speech! Just what a college newspaper should be all about.

      • Shekib

        Put the doughnut down? Howlers? you might want to look at your own language/comments before you judge maze. I know “trojies” classier then you. And Maze please watch your language too…no need for any of this.

        • angriestdogintheworld

          Yes shek, cracks about doughnuts are EXACTLY THE SAME as homophobic hate speech. If you aren’t smart enough to know the difference, you aren’t a Bruin. And you, your pal old timer and your homophobic friend still have no answer to the points made in my longer comment, which is why you attempt to distract attention with personal attacks. So I win the argument by default,

    • FaithBasedHate

      Your point is that BN posters are immature. BN posters’ point is that UCLA deserves better and facts alone merit firing of Dan Guerrero and Ben Howland.

      You throw in the fact that you are old in age and therefore what… you should gain more credibility? You ain’t no more Bruin than anyone else here because you’re old. You’re old and that is that.

      Have any substance to say?

  • B4L

    Interesting argument and not a bad idea. At the same time though, sometimes a louder statement can be made by displeased fans not showing up. Remember the Rose Bowl attendance numbers at the end of Neuheisel’s tenure? There’s a reason there was a 21% increase in attendance at UCLA football games this year: the team played better and was better coached. Everyone was going to go to the Nebraska game, but they kept coming even after that because they realized a culture change and a level of play that hasn’t been seen since the Cade McNown years. In other words, they responded to CHANGE. That’s just the way fans in Los Angeles are, especially when they have perennial high expectations. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” type of attitude for most people, and I’d say UCLA basketball hasn’t done a damn thing for anyone in 4 years.

    What is happening right now is much larger than just this season. I agree with you, it’s a realitively healthy season. But what does that mean in the end? Another second round loss in the P12 tourney? Another early round loss in the NCAAs? A bid to the NIT? 18-6 is pretty solid, but the way this team wins and loses is indicative of the way the program has been run the last half-decade. Even fans that don’t understand basketball from an X’s and O’s standpoint can see that. There is no consistency, not continuity, no identity whatsoever, and there hasn’t been for years now. You can criticize the way fans voice their displeasure, but apathy sets in much sooner in an environment that is not conducive to progessive thinking and constant communication. Fans hate to watch sloppy basketball, but they hate it even more when communication coming from the program and athletic department is fake and non-existant. I get the Morgan Center respecting Howland and standing behind him until the season ends, but fans take silence as acceptance. As a result, they become silent themselves. Why should they go out of their way and spend money to voice their displeasure when clearly the athletic leadership fails to show their attentiveness and concern, and refuses to do so until they conduct a half-hearted review of the season in April. Take a quote from the movie Remember the Titans: “Attitude reflect leadership, Captain.”

  • angriestdogintheworld

    Fans are not enthusiastic about Howland because for the second time he has taken a top-rated recruiting class and done next to nothing with it. Because he has had three years to teach the Wear twins to block out on rebounds and has failed. Because made three Carolina JV players the co-captains of the team. He calls timeouts one minute before a scheduled timeout. Because he benches players when they are on a hot streak. Because his teams have missed the tournament as many times as they have been to Final Fours. Because he is so terrible to play for that players flee the program. Because his teams play boring, ugly, joyless basketball and lose to teams like USC and Cal State SLO. Because Howland is a terrible coach, an absolute failure, a man who does nothing to develop players, who has no situational awareness in games.

    Fans are not enthusiastic about Howland because we know something about basketball and because we do not believe apologists like you, we watch what happens on the court and believe our own eyes. A good high school coach could do a better job. Who, in his right mind, could look at what this team has accomplished in the past three years and think otherwise? He gets millions of dollars a year to call timeouts one minute before a TV timeout?

    Are U.C.L.A. fans entitled to less than Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas or Indiana fans? How many championships have the other elite schools won in the 37 years since Coach Wooden retired? Should our standards be lower? When was the last time the U.C.L.A. men’s basketball team won a CONFERENCE championship, let alone a national championship?

    When the players won’t make the effort to play D and rebound, why should the fans come to the games?

    How low do the standards of U.C.L.A. fans have to be for you to stop agreeing with media that we are bad fans? Should we be satisfied with a winning record?

  • Shekib

    Hey BN Squatters. So you dont like what Menezes is saying? Oh too bad he is not on your site so you can ban him for expressing his opinion. Classy…or should i say class less. Bill Walton has as much coaching experience as i do…so hes pretty much full of BS when he is talking about coaching ability. As for as attendance go…i am just wondering how much you old timers had to pay in the 1960s-70s to go to games. Anyone out there know the price/ticket?

    • angriestdogintheworld

      Hey trojie, your defense of mediocrity at U.C.L.A. isn’t going to work. A high school coach would have enough sense not to call a timeout when his team is in the middle of a run or one minute before a TV timeout. And Walton was accurate in his description of the product Howland was putting on the floor. But I guess you trogans would like us to believe you instead of our lying eyes.

      • Shekib

        ha…trojie? me? barking at the wrong tree puppy. undergrad, staff and grad student. i am more bruin then you ever will be. funny thing is.. BH has been calling those timeout for the last 10 years…even during those final four runs… no complains then? No one wants mediocrity at UCLA…i would be the last person…all i said was to handle family matters with some class. something BN is lacking and all you squatters too.

        • angriestdogintheworld

          You’re a trojie. You want U.C.L.A. to be mediocre.

          • maze949

            Do you blow Murshed “Nestor” Zaheed or Ty-diddles tonight, little mange?

          • angriestdogintheworld

            Maze provides another lesson in what classiness means to a Howland supporter. Thank you for showing the true colors of the pro-trojie mediocrity movement.

          • maze949

            You’re in a love triangle with Bellerophon (you call him Bella), and Ty-diddles. Nestor wants you back, mange.

  • angriestdogintheworld

    47-22 after 20 minutes. Three years with the Wears and neither one can block out on rebounds yet. Great coaching. Howland gets millions of dollars a year for this?

  • FaithBasedHate

    Hey who am I?

    “TIME OUT”