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: May 27, 2011
Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:56 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Does anyone have Reeves's email or mailing address at San Quentin? He will be making new friends.Kiss

Since: Aug 10, 2011
Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:32 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

I agree that Howland has had success in the past, and not only at UCLA. But every program both large and small have to deal under the same rules. To say that Howland can't be successful because of players leaving early is in stark contrast to the Coach K's and Calipari's of the world who seem to thrive regardless.  I hope UCLA makes it back soon, with or without Howland, but you have to ask yourself if players leaving early (i.e., Lee last year) was due to the toxic environment that has been festering for a few years now.  If Howland brings in a strong class and gets more involved, then he may be able to turn it around quickly. But if he is running off players and assistants (as the SI article alleges), then his recruiting and coaching is going to continue to suffer... and UCLA will be many years behind. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Since: Sep 29, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:05 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Oh and it sounds like there possible be some NCAA violations on hand such as partying at a boosters house and being taken in his Rolls Royce to a club and given the VIP room. UCLA might be in big trouble

Since: Sep 29, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:02 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

I just finished reading the SI report and wow! There is obviously a complete lack of respect for UCLA and the gift of being able to play basketball in college by some of the players. If all is true in this report, Howland needs to be immediatly terminated along with the AD. Its disgusting what these players were allowed to get away with especially that phsycho Reeves Nelson. Took way to long for that punk b**ch to get kicked off the team.

Since: Feb 25, 2008
Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:51 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

As a Pitt fan, I see this as "instant karma" for Ben Howland.  The way he left Pitt and his players by lying about the secret interviews he had been having with U.C.L.A. and his dealings with Sonny Vaccaro, a glorified shoe and appareal salesman, will always be my lasting memory of him at Pitt.  He lied about saying he needed to be living closer to his ailing father at that time.  He could have brought his father to UPMC and he would have been taken care of there.  If he goes down because of this, it serves him right.  He's no better than Todd Graham, Pitt's ex-football coach.  You reap what you sow.

Since: Jan 28, 2007
Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:28 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

LOL...PAC 10 basketball sucks, just like football.  As for Reeves Nelson, this is a total loser who should have been kicked off UCLA week one!

You know it's the PAC-12, right genius?

Since: Oct 7, 2010
Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:20 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

"Wooden's Pyramid of Success"  Oh, you mean to cheat and pay players and buy national Championships.  I hate to talk about him because he is no longer alive, but people should stop glorifying John Wooden.  He was not good for college basketball.  He turned his head and allowed boosters to buy his players.  His former players will admit it, just ask Bill Walton.  He won a lot of games and titles but many coaches could accomplish that with all that was going on at UCLA during his time.

Since: Oct 5, 2006
Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:19 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Well stated and succinct CalGRad1991.  Apllies to UCLA, it's cross town rival USC, football, basketball and generally Los Angeles.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:10 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Easy to point the finger at Guerrero and Howland, but when do the players have to be held accountable for their actions. Personal pride, respect for the game, their university and themselves should stop the majority of these self-entitled minions. Nelson's actions are repulsive and display how the actions of one player can destroy a culture. Howland is on a short leash -this report is embarrassing, but a lot of major programs have dealt with similar or worse issues. I'm a Bruin for life, the past few years have been hard to stomach, but what has been harder is seeing a team with talented players go through the motions and accept losing.

Since: Nov 9, 2008
Posted on: February 29, 2012 1:53 pm

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

The UCLA men's basketball program is emblematic of the city of Los Angeles as a whole: once a place that was golden, full of opportunity and flush with success to a program (and city) of underachioeving, entitled whiners. 

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