Tag Archives: Dan Guerrero

andy_enfield

The Galen Dunk Center

As the new basketball coach at USC, Andy Enfield will give stiff competition to Lane Kiffin for hottest spouse in the Athletic Department.

Football:

layla-kiffin-5_feature

Layla Kiffin

Basketball:

Amanda_Marcum-5

Amanda Marcum

OK, so now that that’s out of the way, I love this hire. But it’s on pure potential, speculation, and magic stemming from his run to the Sweet Sixteen.

Looking at the numbers we can’t say a ton about Enfield. After all, there are only two season’s worth of data to determine much about his coaching abilities. He got this year’s team – which included the conference’s POY, Sherwood Brown – to play at a top-50 tempo (last season, Enfield’s first, they were closer to average, coming in as the 101st fastest squad). They shot 52.3% of their shots from 2pt distance (Dunk City) this season. America got to see them play a fun, energetic, exciting, root-for-able brand of ball. He, like cross town rival Steve Alford, has been to one Sweet Sixteen.

He assisted at at Florida State beginning in 2006. During that time, the Seminoles had four Top-25 recruiting classes. Is this enough to say he’s cut his recruiting teeth? Maybe. But note: did you see the spouse he recruited? Have I mentioned that?

Because ultimately, most of what we know is anecdotal. It’s surface. It’s fluff. Like a Maxim model, it’s shiny and pretty and wonderful on the outside; but we’re going to have to date her to find out if there’s any depth.

Further fact finding, however, suggests that this guy has been wildly successful in just about every endeavor he’s undertook: HS valedictorian, All-American basketball player (and All-Academic), entrepreneur (TractManager, All Net Shooting), NBA shooting coach, FGCU head coach (.594 win %, Sweet Sixteen), dating (perhaps NSFW).

Pat Haden has made a risky hire but an exciting one.

Of course the merits of such a hire will be evaluated on the eventual wins and losses accumulated by Enfield and the program he’s about to build. One must adhere to rule #12 in Surviving Your Coaching Hunt. Believe.

And Haden – by “winning the press conference” – has made it a lot easier to believe.

In January, I called this coaching hunt the Battle for Los Angeles following the firing of O’Neill. The respective regimes in Pauley and the Galen Center were failing to bring in local talent which had been central to each of their previous success.

So now the battle begins – Alford v. Enfield – and I love what Haden has done. He’s taken the completely polar opposite pick to that of his rival. Alford is a good hire, a guy with a proven track record of sound success and should continue to do such. Enfield has an HC track record of two years. Both are wildcards.

But my favorite part of this is the contrasting styles.

Alford has the bigger name job. His arena has 11 banners dangling in it and there is little doubt that he should be able to capture most blue chippers out of the LA area. He’ll have to fight for them, but UCLA will always have clout and a leg up on these recruitments. But his style could be limiting. Some players might not fit well and that’s where Enfield can swoop in, garner some of the premium athletes, and build the budding legend of The Galen Dunk Center.

This contrast propagates the Battle for Los Angeles, a fresh take on a classic rivalry.

Ultimately, however, comparing these hires is to compare apples and oranges. The parallels end at “vacant position.” Haden had the drawing board. Guerrero had the gauntlet. Time will tell whether these are “good hires” or not for their respective situations.

Alas, I like the Enfield hire for the excitement it garners which is the best it can do when no games are being played. Did you see the Galen stands as the season came to a close? This program needed an injection of joy. Haden delivered.

#IsItNovemberYet

SteveAlford

Steve Alford is no April Fools

I love the Steve Alford hire.

I’m watching the Kevin Ware injury on repeat.

I have little interest in what Aaron Gordon has to say tomorrow.

It was about time to get the Oregon cheerleaders off TV.

I will not miss this college basketball season.

APRIL FOOLS!

Are you kidding me!? Steve Alford was a fallback hire and I will not watch the Ware thing once. If Aaron Gordon says what I think and hope he’ll say dancing will ensue and preferably with an Oregon cheerleader. There are just three games left :(

But I really want to dig into this Alford hire.

It came across my ESPN ScoreCenter push notifications at something like 8:50am Saturday on my way to a pickup hoops game. I was driving alone and immediately didn’t know what to do. I headed to social media, quickly, and then to Wikipedia. The Alford page already mentioned UCLA.

Hadn’t he just signed a 10-year deal in Albuquerque?

Alas, Dan Guerrero and Bruins Nation have their man. He has to be. Westwood’s newest coach:

  • 4 Tournament wins in 18 seasons as HC
  • .589 win percentage at High Major Iowa
  • 7 NCAA appearances
  • 3 4* recruits while at UNM
  • Avg AdjT ranking of 181st
  • 1 Sweet Sixteen
  • 0 Final Fours

But I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt here. He’s signed, sealed, and delivered and it’s going to be his show. BruinsNation must withhold their vitriol for a minimum three-seasons. In my opinion, at least.

The Howland firing was universally accepted as a necessary change. It doesn’t always look right on paper but a break was necessary. A lot like your college girlfriend.

Alford doesn’t fit all the buzz words like “winning the press conference” or “home run hire” but he does offer a new regime in Westwood which is what the Bruins had coming to them. And while some will tell you that he was hired in desperation, that Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens’ declining led Guerrero to jump on the first available “yes”, I’m not buying it. Who’s to say he hadn’t been in the Pitino and Donovan camps for weeks? Why wouldn’t he have been? You fire the Head Coach of the conference champ and you knew you were going to do this for awhile. Phone calls were made. Interests were felt out. Guerrero had at least an idea of which trees to bark up and at a certain juncture he barked up the Alford tree and here we are.

Change for the sake of change.

Whether he’s a good fit or a successful hire will ultimately boil down to how he fills the left column. History suggests he might struggle to do so.

I say give it time. This hire can can hold the promise of spring after a cold winter.

And it sure ain’t April Fools.

BenHowlandFired

On Ben Howland and the UCLA Job

Honestly my first reaction was sadness. I did not enjoy seeing Ben Howland and the program he led and the manner in which he led it so widely chastised and considered ruinous.

And I understand the nature of this beast. It’s a business of immediate criticisms with many anonymous critics free to spout whatever they wish from behind the security of a screen name. Also a lot of very public critics.

But I suppose what I find so interesting about this now vitriolic UCLA fan base – now encouraging their former coach to not let the door hit him on the way out – has been their insistence on replacing “Coach.” To ensure that there is a head figure to carry forth the program of Coach, with the principles of the pyramid bound to their mind and inscribed across his heart.

Ben Howland is a helluva basketball coach. Somewhere along the line he lost his way as the elite guy he swiftly proved himself to be; but, as evident by this season’s Pac-12 championship, he didn’t stray too far from what exactly he is: a terrific basketball coach.As it unfortunately were, he did not have the energy to carry the torch of the past; to embody the man (Wooden) whom he is not, was not, and will not be. An exhausting task to compete with the ghosts of the past.

But as I said, there is a beast to this industry and so, when expectations realistic or otherwise are not met, the beast rears its ugly head and axes are swung.

I’m not trying to make an argument here for keeping Ben Howland. It’s become clear that he is not the right man, right now, to be the lead at UCLA. His time had run its course. There was little enthusiasm in Westwood and Howland seemed to be doing very little to instill excitement in the program surrounding his on-court product. It would appear that both parties are best suited with a fresh start.

Which might be exactly what the UCLA program needs: A fresh start. And I’m not talking about simply a new coach. John Wooden will never be replaced. He can and should be respected and remembered are revered but no man will be successful in any venture mimicking another. The Bruins are about to acquire a very good coach. A man with an impressive resume and the utmost respect for the job he’s inheriting. But for him to be successful, for him to truly uphold the principles of “Coach’s Program,” he will have to be his own man. Whatever that is, he will adhere to his own principles and succeed by his own strengths. He will win because, in his own right, is good.

Ben Howland will take a season or so off and find his way into a new position somewhere and likely be very successful there. He’ll find little appreciation for his ten seasons in Westwood (the longest tenure since Wooden) but he should sleep well at night knowing he’s good at what he does: Coach basketball.

May his next venture allow him to do such.

May UCLA’s next venture allow someone to succeed.

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.

The SI UCLA Piece: Much Ado, As They Say

There was a swift buildup to the article outlining the demise of UCLA basketball.

It hit the twittersphere hard and didn’t let up. Sports By Brooks made allusions; opponents made assumptions; fans feared the worst.

Then it leaked or was released or was just read by a lot of people before it was actually in Sports Illustrated or on SI.com or I don’t know what happened surrounding the release of this damn thing but it was confusing. My point is, I started reading stuff about the contents of this article and after suspecting that it would have a whole lot of stuff that we already assumed about Howland and his bunch of malcontents, it was confirmed.

Is it that surprising that kids take advantage of a toothless bark? That players leave a program that isn’t going to necessarily teach them anything new, push them to new heights, or challenge their skill? Rightfully run from bullies and the mishandling of attitudes?

When I finally had the opportunity to read the publicized piece I was underwhelmed. It felt like the nerdy kid in high school tattling on the cool kids.

I was most offended by Howland’s temperature demands in the film room. Dude, you live in LA, it’s perfect there year ’round. Get over it.

Will this cost Howland his job? Absolutely not. Anyone already close to the program knew all of this and I can’t imagine any outsider is shocked by these allegations. But it does grossly highlight the lack of accountability in the program and the structure of misaligned priorities that will ultimately bring about the demise of the Howland tenure.

Could Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and whatever other combination of 2012 recruits commit to UCLA – potentially including #1 Shabazz Muhammad and #20 Tony Parker – salvage this black eyed program? Absolutely. Wins are the ultimate PR remedy and talent can contribute just that.

It may not be fair and it may not be right but it’s the sports world we live in. Ultimately college basketball – and more immediately the Pac-12 – are best suited when UCLA is good so someone in Westwood needs to figure it out soon.

If looking for the positive side of things, Howland and Guerrero no longer have the opportunity to hide behind the veil of privacy they assumed they had. They had a chance to be accountable to each other and to the school and to the student-athletes they taught.

Now that veil has been lifted and all eyes are on them.

Whatcha gonna do, Big Ben?

The Indefensible UCLA Bruins

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend the UCLA Bruins.

Last week, the Bruins lost at “home” to Loyola Marymount. Their first loss to the cross-town non-rival since 1944. The same team that turned around and lost to Middle Tennessee State a day later. They’re malcontents, overrated, and undisciplined.

In the midst of writing a defense of this Bruins team, the news of Reeves Nelson possibly quitting the team broke (Nelson has since been indefinitely suspended). I could no longer finish my post.

I can no longer defend Ben Howland and his UCLA program.

I started that post early Monday afternoon. That was a time when I thought, “Hey, these Bruins simply have some personnel issues. They just need to reestablish roles, let the learning curve play out, get Zeek to shoot less and distribute more, and they’ll be fine.” I was going to ask everyone to be patient with this team and let them improve with more and more games.

I repeat: the UCLA Bruins are indefensible.

At first it was the early departures. We could excuse those as talent being talent. UCLA was talent rich, making annual appearances in the final four. But when the departures just never stopped, when they went from lottery picks (Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook) to second round picks (Malcom Lee, Tyler Honeycutt) the red flags began to fly. Go ahead and toss Dominic Artis’ decommitment into this category, too.

And at first we could also excuse Drew Gordon’s 2009 departure to a basic conflict of personalities. It happens. Not every relationship is a great one. Gordon’s departure, while somewhat heated, happens.

But a closer look shows us that of the last three recruiting classes (’08, ’09, ’10), UCLA brought in fourteen players, seven of which are no longer with the program; four by transfer, three by NBA draft.

And now there’s Nelson. Another discontented star willing to drastically change his basketball trajectory at the cost of his UCLA jersey. While Nelson isn’t about to win anyone’s award for teammate of the year (Josh Smith, either) this obviously isn’t the first case of someone trying to leave Westwood early.

Simply put, people not wanting to stay in your program doesn’t bode well for your program.

The one constant through all this (am I quoting Field of Dreams?) has been Ben Howland. The aforementioned issues and excuses have been piling up. Either he’s insufferable or he can’t recognize who’s going to be successful with his tough love style. Whatever you want to call it, there would certainly seem to be a lot of smoke leading to the inevitable fire, as they say.

UCLA had best rein this in (calling Dan Guerrero!) before it gets much further out of hand. The saving grace right now is Howland’s 2012 recruiting class but indefinitely suspending your best player is not step one.

Like I said, I want to defend this program, it’s storied and important; but if no one wants to wear the blue and gold, what’s the point?