Blog Entry

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:38 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 10:44 am
Under Ben Howland, the UCLA doctrines instilled under John Wooden have quickly deteriorated. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

Players taking drugs, teammates fighting each other, an elite head coach losing control of his program.

The tales detailed by Sports Ilustrated’s George Dohrmann in his report on the fall of the UCLA program are eye-opening. With that said, we’re not looking at an NCAA investigation in the works, and, in fact, the reaction by most people is a simple raised eyebrow or two and a lack of surprise at the behavior. 

Dohrmann places most of the blame on the 2008 and 2009 recruiting classes, as well as the lack of control and discipline instilled by head coach Ben Howland. Once guys like Russell Westbrook, Jordan Farmer, Lorenzo Mata-Real, Josh Shipp and other players from the 2004 and 2005 recruiting classes left the program, the doctrines of “Wooden’s Pyramid of Success” – the UCLA way – quickly deteriorated with the younger players.

There was widespread drinking and drug use among the players in Westwood, including one story of three players going to a rave on New Year’s Eve – after specifically being asked not to go out – and using Ecstasy and partying until 5 a.m. Some of the players, according to Dorhmann, bragged about still feeling the effects of the drugs at practice the next morning.

Then there’s Reeves Nelson, of course. The heavily-tattoed power forward from Modesto, Calif. was supposed to bring toughness and other Howland philosophies to the table. Instead, he brought nothing but chaos and instability to the program. 

Some of the “highlights” of Nelson’s tenure with the Bruins, as laid-out by Dohrmann:

  • Urinating on Tyler Honeycutt’s clothes and flipping his bed over
  • Purposely pulling down on James Keefe’s left arm, which had just been repaired by surgery, and injuring Alex Schrempf’s back for several months with a hard foul
  • Berating Matt Carlino and calling him “concussion boy” to the point Carlino felt the need to transfer to BYU
  • Constantly talking back and yelling at assistant coaches
  • Fighting Mike Moser and Drew Gordon on multiple occasions

Howland clearly lost of control of his program with lack of discipline and involvement in the development of players. Dohrmann wrote that Howland doesn’t have much contact with his team outside of games and practices, and constantly talks down to his assistants. Howland didn’t punish Nelson for several of his actions and let him run amok until finally kicking him off the team on December 9.

It was only a few years ago that Howland steered UCLA to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-2008. The Bruins have steadily gone downhill since then, missing the NCAA tournament in 2010 and likely sitting on the sideline for the Big Dance this year too.

While Dohrmann’s piece does not magnify a NCAA scandal, it certainly shows the respect and luster for Howland – and UCLA – lessening with each passing year.


Since: Aug 31, 2011
Posted on: March 1, 2012 12:16 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

bobthe fa n You have no clue what you are talking about! Steve Patterson 2rd 18th overall pick 6 years in NBA. Sidney Wicks  2d overall pick  career average 17.9 in NBA(hardly a journey man). Dave Meyers 2d overall pick career average 11.2.  these guys were good NBAers and superstars in college. You don't seem to have any legit knowledge of UCLA or NBA basketball. wooden always had the best players and stockpiled  them because of more scholarship players allowed in those days (15 I think). Sam Gilbert was his best player and always kept the $100 handshakes going full time. nobody will talk about wooden benefitting from this but every one knows excepting you. also in those days the NCAA was a much smaller tournament and a lot easier to win.

Since: Jan 25, 2008
Posted on: March 1, 2012 12:02 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Bad luck for Howland by recruiting such a big crop of 5 cent brains (Gordon, Nelson, Morgan et al) in two consecutive classes aka Baby Bruins. Sometimes you gotta pay the piper and despite most of this not being his fault, he's got to go. 

Since: Mar 21, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:06 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Dkbeso13 . You don't have a clue about ucla basketball. I'm under 35 and a proud bruin fan. Howland will pull the team together. Look at all of the guys he helped get into the nba. I think I've seen you post before on other threads trying to stir things up. Pretty ure you are a penn st. Football fan. Good luck with that

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:57 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

dK13beso: You are such a complete idiot, and obviously have NO legitimate knolwedge of UCLA's success under Wooden.  I understand you would like to make it out that his success was just that he had the best players, but you are completely WRONG in that regard.  In 1964 and 1965, he won his first two titles without a single player over 6-5.  He then won 3 titles with Jabbar, and then two more with NO superstars.  The center was a guy named Steve Patterson, who never played a game in the NBA.  The star was Sid Wicks, and had only a journeyman pro career.  Then came two more with Walton, and finally his last with...ta da..David Meyers as the "star".  So five of his 10 championships were won with average talent, and five with superior talent.  Learn some history before you embarrass yourself agan with such ignorance.  BTW, programs like Kentucky and NC invented "paying" players, not UCLA.  And most teams that win NCs have superior talent.  Yet no one is (or ever will be) close to Wooden's record.  Not Dean Smith, not Coach K, not Calhoun, or Boeheim, or Calipari.  No one.  And no, I am not a UCLA fan or alum, just a college BB fan with some respect for the best coach that ever lived, in ANY sport....John Wooden.

Since: Jan 19, 2012
Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:48 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Calgrad1991 and bgtaylor4…..I have met plenty of people from both Northern California and Southern California and the only individuals that have some misdirected dislike for the other are almost unilateral from the North. Why is that? Sports fans in Northern California go beyond sports with their hate and lay it on all of Southern California. Southern Californian’s (for the most part) could care less about Northern California, period. I’ve heard “water hoarders” and “battery chucks”, but that usually is reserved for Dodgers fans when referring specifically to Giants fans. Why the envy? The Bay Area and the “City” are terrific places without erroneously lashing out. Save it for a board that is dedicated to the pluses and minuses of Northern California vs. Southern California, (yawn)…,


Winskins8….I could care less about UCLA, but before popping off on any board, make sure USC wins more than one conference game (other than against PAC-12 new comer 6-22 Utah)…,


Timucla…..unfair to Howland? Your first (1) point is dead on, but to say this is unfair to Howland is flat out misguided. He has underdeveloped talent in the program and botched recruiting in California for a little too long to avoid any blame. I will give you that far too many players have spent a limited amount of time in the program then moved on, but as you mentioned, those recruits are making an impact on the next level and leaving early is more of a systemic problem related to college basketball as a whole than to UCLA specifically. Although he is a well-respected coach, he has been in Westwood recruiting top talent or has had access to top talent for a long time, which makes his leadership abilities suspect at a minimum.


Although you all come from different places, (geographic and otherwise) remember objectivity is the key. Despite where you’re from, what cross town rival you support, once again, the man that holds the keys and should be held accountable is UCLA’s AD, Dan Gurerro. Why have his repeated blunders and ineptitude been tolerated for so long? When will Gene Block wake up?

BTW - DK13beso...see Winskins8. 

Since: Oct 1, 2006
Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:22 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

God has zero to do with it

Since: Jul 29, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:19 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

All I know is that Howland is a complete chap-ass and I'm loving the demise of UCLA basketball. Yeah, Yeah, the Bruins were the benchmark of college basketball success, but everyone out west knows that Wooden paid to get the best players in the nation to Westwood. Of course, the Wizard did coach these all-stars up and had the benefit of hardly ever leaving SoCal in the NCAA tourney, but the facts are what they are! Screw you Howland and all you pompous UCLA jerks that hang on to the past; you're yesterday's news. Hey UCLA! Your basketball program is now the football version of Notre Dame. No one under the age of 35 knows or cares who you were or are!

Since: Aug 13, 2007
Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:27 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

wrong dotneck.    earlier said was correct.   all were howlands recruits,  not lavin's    if you don't know the program,  don't make an assumption.

Since: Apr 1, 2007
Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:49 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

I am a life-long Bruin fan, and it has been hard to watch these last few years.  And, it is obvious that Howland had lost control of the players for the past few and must make changes.  But, there are a lot of things that don't add up about this story and the sudden call to oust Howland.  Before UCLA fans call for the head of Howland on a silver platter, they should consider a few things:

1.  Earlier in the year, the LA Times ran an article about the 15 UCLA players currently in the NBA and about how they appreciated Howland's style and discipline.  Players such as Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Aaron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Jrue Holliday, Darrin Collison, and Luc Richard M'bah a Moute all credited Howland with strictly preparing them for the NBA.  NBA scouts have noted that UCLA players are better disciplined and prepared for the NBA.

2.  Three consecutive Final Fours is extremely difficult.  The only other people that have accomplished this is Coach K and Tom Izzo.  (For those who claim that Howland won with Lavin's recruits, check your facts.  The only two Lavin players on the 2006 team that made any sort of contribution were Cedric Boseman and Ryan Hollins.  These teams were led by Farmar, Afflalo, Collison, Love, M'bah a Moute, Lorenzo Matta, Alfred Aboya, Westbrook, Love, Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt - all of which were Howland recruits).

3.  The article is sort-of unfair to Howland.  He cannot respond to these accusations because of privacy concerns.

4.  Most of the problems discussed in the article relate to one player: Reeves Nelson.  For whatever reason, Howland coddled Nelson.  Three of the high-profile players that transferred (and starred elsewhere) - Matt Carlino, Mike Moser, and Drew Gooden - were tormented by Nelson.  Carlino even specifically said that he was transferring because of Nelson.

Given Howland's success in the past, I think he has at least earned the benefit of the doubt.  He clearly made recruiting mistakes with Anderson, Gordon, Morgan, and Nelson.  He needs to go back to recruiting the more mature players like those that have gone on to star in the NBA and stop bringing in the head cases.  But, I think he has earned the right to try and rectify his mistakes.

Since: Apr 18, 2008
Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:32 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

larry drew we miss you.  j/k

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