UCLA Coach Ben Howland Faces Criticism From Sports Illustrated
Along with the Dohrmann's assertions of players routinely using drugs (sometimes right before practice), players say they "disapproved of the verbal abuse they say [Howland] directed at his staff, the student managers and the weakest players," and second-guess Howland's unwillingness to discipline star recruit Reeves Nelson until it was too late.
It is an excellent article, and one that deserves to be read in full. The most salient points are summarized below:
-- Verbal abuse: Examples of players' dislike of Howland's verbal aggression towards them included one player telling Dohrmann that "if he saw Howland waiting for the elevator he would take the stairs." Two players also noted that Howland kicked them out of walkthroughs for not getting low enough on defense, "even though they were wearing jeans that constricted their movements."
-- Drug Use by Players: Dohrmann cites a story that occurred in late 2008. Three members of the team defied Howland's orders to stay in on New Year's Eve. They went to a rave at the Sports Arena and came back to Westwood at 4 a.m. They still felt the effects of Ecstasy at an 8 a.m. practice. One player said he was submitted to a drug test, but took something to get the drugs "out of [his] system."
-- Kid Gloves with Reeves Nelson: Nelson's saga takes up a good chunk of the article. Nelson injured James Keefe's shoulder and Alex Schrempf's back in practice with his aggression, and stepped on the chest of Tyler Trapani, John Wooden's great-grandson. All of these incidents were confirmed by Nelson. Players say he so intimidated teammate Matt Carlino, following Carlino's recovery from a concussion, that he "dreaded practice." Carlino eventually transferred to BYU.
Howland's response to Nelson at the time? He told players, "He's producing," and didn't discipline him, according to the article. But it didn't stop there.
"At the end of practice, (Nelson) would punt balls high up into the stands at Pauley Pavilion, turn to the student managers & say, 'Fetch,'" writes Dohrmann. There are also reports that Nelson urinated on teammate Tyler Honeycutt's clothes after he suspected Honeycutt ratted him out for partying to Coach Howland. Not punished.
-- Perceived Double Standard Nelson was undercutting team morale, but was not disciplined until the 2011-12 season, when he was eventually dismissed from the team. Instead, it was Drew Gordon that was forced out. Gordon did party hard, but players felt that Gordon's dismissal was because he second-guessed Howland's coaching.
"The message some players took from Gordon's departure was this: At UCLA you could fight, you could drink alcohol and do drugs to the point that it affected your performance," Dohrmann writes. "But the one thing you could not do was question Howland's knowledge of the game."
-- Howland's Response: Howland didn't take the opportunity to address specific incidents noted in the article, either prior to publication or this week.
"I firmly believe in the philosophy of giving all of my players the chance to do things the right way," Howland says as part of a statement to SI that is printed fully in the article.
Between 2006 and 2008, Howland's teams averaged 32 wins per season and reached three straight Final Fours. Since then, the Bruins have averaged just under 20 wins per season.
-- Impact: So, UCLA basketball under Ben Howland has included fights between players, routine drug and alchohol use, verbal abuse by the head coach and not disciplining a violent player. It's all very scathing of Howland, but not necessarily one that demands NCAA action (depending on your definition of "lack of institutional control"). In other words, the article was possibly over-hyped.
There is one passage that describes UCLA players being chauffered to a massive party in West Hollywood, but Dohrmann doesn't really pursue if this is an NCAA violation. See the details for yourself near the middle of this page.
If nothing else, this article raises questions about what athletic director Dan Guerrero will do to discipline Ben Howland. If past Guerrero quotes that Dohrmann cites are any indication, it might not be much.