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 29, 2006
Posted on: February 29, 2012 6:41 pm

Open Letter to Shabazz

If ever there was a sign from God this is it........UCLA is no place for an up and coming superstar. Do what all the other up and coming superstars do, play at UK.

Since: Mar 24, 2010
Posted on: February 29, 2012 6:31 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Has anyone noticed that Howland's SUCCESSFUL years (Final Fours in 2006-07-08) were ALL done with Steve Lavin's recruits, and not his??? Maybe Lavin wasn't such a bad coach after all---5 Sweet 16s in 7 years!!!

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:54 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Me. I meant me. Just noticed the mistake.

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:53 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Why Nelson was allowed to stay on UCLA's team as long as he did is just amazing to him. Some of the actions described in this article do not describe a human being. A human being has empathy and sympathy. These describe a monster of a human being, and a 100% douche. Thank God he's not playing basketball anymore.

Since: Dec 7, 2007
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:47 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Just a reminder UCLA "won" the recruiting wars for this Reeves Nelson kid. 

USC offered. UNC, Georgetown, Duke, Arizona, Texas were among the others.  

Didn't seem to be a bad kid at Modesto Christian High School.
Played AAU ball with Honeycutt. 
Seemingly writes poetry and get all reflective in his spare time.
Talks about hating losing. Being prejudged. And being in the NBA. 

I guess it's just L.A. -  or maybe, like Nelson suggests in the article, the description of a prank he pulled on a friend wasn't exactly as it was described. 

Look - I don't want to condone bad behavior. But he's young. He's seemed to be a good kid in the past. With the media hype around this it's going to be awful hard to salvage a future. 

There are no stories of arrests, no rumors of rape, no assault charges, no bank fraud.

So did Howland lack the discipline of the Modesto Christian coach ? Yes, Was adjusting to LA from Modesto a bit too much for the kid to take ? Seems so. Should his life be over ? Probably not.

Latrell Sprewell choked a coach out and came back with a pistol and he got a second chance.

He's no saint but Nelson deserves a little breathing room. I wish him a speedy turn around,  

Since: Sep 29, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:25 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Also Romar just got a new extension which is paying him pretty nicely and everyone knows how cheap the UCLA athletic program is

Since: Sep 29, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:04 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Yea Romar isn't going anywhere. He's a UW alum and is very happy where he is. 

Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:04 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

As a USC fan, I"m loving this report. I like the see UCLA down on it's knees. Brings tears of joy to my eyes. But I don't want to see them so bad that they would fire our ("our" meaning USC's) double agent Ben Howland. The way Ben has driven away great prospects from joining that program has been the ultimate pleasure for me. No real prospects wants to join Ben and that's the way I like it.

Please UCLA, don't let a few drug heads and alcoholics drive you to fire good old Ben. Please stick with Ben because he'll get your program back on it's feet so it can come in it's usual 4th place in the Pac 12 again. Just stick with him! Ben Howland is the best coach I could ever, ever hope for UCLA and I hope he continues to be the basketball coach there for the next 50 years atleast!

We love you over here in USC ville coach. And if your looking for support, let your boss know that we over here in at Southern Cal stand behind you.

Since: Feb 28, 2008
Posted on: February 29, 2012 4:58 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

It's pretty apparent that just bringing in a big-name coach isn't enough for a storied program with great tradition. If the program is to continue, both the coaches and the players must buy into the tradition. It's pretty apparent that if UCLA is ever to return to its former glory, the program needs someone who grew up and succeeded in the program. Someone like Lorenzo Romar, maybe, although there are others.

Since: Jan 16, 2012
Posted on: February 29, 2012 4:48 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

I would think Howland is about done at UCLA......a program without discipline can not win.

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