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: Dec 21, 2011
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:59 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

I'm not surprised at all by this report. It's been obvious for a while that there are serious problems at UCLA. When you have blue chip prospects leaving your program and becoming stars at UNLV and BYU, something is obviously very wrong. This one's on Howland. The greatest coach of my lifetime is clearly turning over in his grave.

Since: Sep 30, 2011
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:59 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report


Where is Dan Guererro in all of this?  An AD has a responsibility to oversee the athletic department and all teams.  Since coming to UCLA he has made poor hire after poor hire in the football program and clearly he has turned a blind eye to the basketball program.  I am extremely disappointed to hear that Ben Howland has little to no contact with players outside of practice or games.  One thing Wooden did was make a promise that he would help boys become men in his program.  He did this with hands on interaction throughout their entire time on campus.  He not only saw them at practice and games, but was active in their lives.  He cared about the kids, the program and UCLA.  Howland has managed to take the most storied program in NCAA basketball history and reduce it to a laughing stock.
I truly hope that Howland is shown the door at the end of the season and Guerrero should be right behind him; clearly he is not capable of administering the athletic department.

Since: Jul 29, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:51 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Anybody that any basic knowledge of the Mountain West Conference could have told you that something is terribly wrong in Westwood. The league has several refugees playing @ a extremely high level for schools like New Mexico, UNLV, BYU and others. This goes way beyond the actions of this Nelson nut job and the problem lies squarely with Howland. Good God; college basketball in the L.A. area is pretty sad when Long Beach and Loyola are your 2 best teams.

Since: Dec 1, 2006
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:39 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

True Story. I had a very talented player one year. He was clearly the best player on the basketball team. The player was a total negative. He didn't practice hard, his defense was close to non-existant, etc. One day in practice I had had enough. The team was made to do run sprints under the principal that basketball is a team game and if one player lets down the entire team suffers. The sprints were thirty seconds to run and thirty seconds to rest between sprints. On about the third one, the brick head sprinted out the door at the end of the gym. Eventually, he asked to rejoin the team. I was going to let him do it. I mistakenly thought that the rest of the team would want to have the best athlete/player playing. My captain came to me and said, "Coach the team doesn't want him back. His actions are always getting us all punished in practice and games." I told the captain that each member of the team would have to come to me before the next practice and individually tell me that they didn't want him back. This was in case the captain had a grudge against this player and was personally trying to punish him. Within the hour, each player came to me and said, "I don't want him back." I would like to say that we went on to win the state championship without this cancerous player. We didn't. But, the team and I certainly enjoyed each other and the rest of the season a lot more without him. It taught me the most valuable lesson I have ever learned in coaching. You always want to work with someone until you can't. It appears Coach Howland forgot this principal and is paying the price.  

Since: Nov 25, 2009
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:29 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

Holy crap!  "Purposely pulling down on James Keefe’s left arm, which had just been repaired by surgery" is terrible.  How low can a guy get?

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:29 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

I hope Shabazz Muhammad reads this before he decides on a college.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:04 am

Fall of the UCLA program detailed in new report

I was aware of several Nelson horror stories as the result of a long friendship with someone that is very close to the main cast of characters at UCLA, but this stuff should be repulsive to even the most casual fan.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or