SAN ANTONIO -- Ben Howland has a problem.
I'm not sure if he should blame John Wooden or himself for this problem. But really, the responsible party doesn't matter. All that matters is a problem exists, and it's not going away unless UCLA beats Memphis on Saturday and then beats North Carolina or Kansas on Monday to win the national title.
|Coach Ben Howland has managed to juggle all the UCLA expectations -- except for one. (AP)|
Fall short of that, and it's all gonna turn around.
Suddenly, the Howland era won't be viewed so favorably because making three straight Final Fours only sounds great until somebody points out he's lost in three straight Final Fours. And trust me, that's what people will start to point out -- regardless of whether it's fair or unfair.
Call it the Buffalo Bills effect.
Nobody remembers that they won four AFC titles.
People just remember that they lost four Super Bowls.
"That's true," said UCLA junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. "We've gone to the Final Four two years in a row and lost both times, and to do it again would be a big disappointment. UCLA is a very high-standard university; all that matters are championships. John Wooden? All he did was win championships. So anything less than a championship at UCLA is a failure."
I think this is crazy, by the way.
I want to make that perfectly clear.
Every UCLA fan would've been downright giddy if you had told them when Howland was hired in April 2003 that he'd take the Bruins to three Final Fours in his first five seasons. It's an unbelievably difficult achievement, something many Hall of Fame coaches haven't done. In fact, since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985 only two other men -- Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State's Tom Izzo -- have made back-to-back-to-back Final Fours, and that's why Howland is routinely mentioned by industry experts as one of the best coaches -- if not the best coach -- in college basketball.
Simply put, Ben Howland is awesome.