BattleLA

The Battle for LA in Pat Haden’s Office

Please let me know if you have not heard of the following basketball players. I’ll be happy to tell you all about them:

But odds are you have heard of these players who never played a single minute for a university in their home city of Los Angeles. They played as Longhorns, Wildcats, Aztecs, even Sun Devils; but not one was a Bruin or Trojan.

So in the wake of Kevin O’Neill’s dismal at USC, the collective eyes of West Coast basketball settle onto the administrative offices of Pat Haden. Here is a man with the potential to restructure Pac-12 hoops with ripple effects across every conference on this coast; his own conference not withstanding. It’s no secret that Los Angeles produces talent and that the Pac-12 is a down conference today. Such a combination would appear to make a seat in the Galen Center a desirable one. Should that coach begin to garner the talent that has seemingly “fallen through the cracks” (Jamaal Franklin, Kendall Williams, all of the above), well then there are games to be won.

Of course there is the case of the cross-town and mighty Bruins. Owners of a pyramid and infinitesimal championships, it’s assumed they snatch up the major talent and leave pittance for the rest. Not true.

Ben Howland has burnt just about every possible bridge in what is to be considered his breadbasket. Don’t believe me? Of Howland’s recruiting classes since 2008, he has secured eleven commitments from Californians. Of these Golden Staters, just two (Norman Powell and Jerime Anderson) are on the roster or remained four years and one was a first round one-and-done (Jrue Holiday). These three cases we can argue are successful. Beyond that is where it gets ugly: two left shockingly early to be second round picks (Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee); two were dismissed from the team (Anthony Stover and Reeves Nelson); and four have transferred (Brendon Lane, De’End Paker, Drew Gordon, and Tyler Lamb). Howland’s potentially program altering 2012 class? Zero Californians. I could put the same critique to KO and his recruiting at USC but when you run the unsustainable model of accepting oodles of transfers, losing six games, and playing under NCAA sanctions, recruiting become a bit of an afterthought.

It’s this very local ineptitude that has me fascinated with this USC coaching a hunt. A home run here will put the heat on UCLA. Can the biggest program on the west coast –if not the country – really play second recruiting fiddle at home? I’m not questioning whether or not UCLA is a better job than USC – I’m taking the UCLA job seven days a week and twice on Sunday – but the Trojans have the opportunity to become LA’s team and to be regularly successful without having to do much work. Meanwhile in Westwood, a national recruiting hunt and association with the perceived dirtiest recruitments ever gets exhausting. It screams “no identity.” Wanna hear some names that played in those three Final Fours we still talk about? Afflalo, Shipp, Collison, Farmar, Roll, Mata-Real, Westbrook, Bozeman, Hollins. Some fun Trojan names from 06-09 with a 68-37 record? Young, Pruitt, Hackett, Jefferson, Derozan All of the aforementioned were contributing LA kids.

The last four Gatorade California HS Players of the year are all in college. None are in Los Angeles. This fact has Sean Miller, Tad Boyle, Steve Fisher, and every other coach in a less-than-talent-rich area salivating. There’s already significant questioning surrounding what’s happening behind Dan Guerrero’s door and I have to imagine he’s thinking hard about what to do.

So Pat Haden has a list and with that list I believe he will dictate a lot more than the bank account and real estate maneuvering of a man on that list. He has the opportunity to seismically shift Pac-12 basketball. But more finitely:

The battle for Los Angeles is on.