Ben Howland knows how to rebuild a collegiate basketball program. He did it at Pittsburgh and again at Northern Arizona. And Howland's done it at UCLA. Entering his fifth year as the Bruins' head coach in 2007-08, Howland has led UCLA to back-to-back Pacific-10 (2006-07) titles and Final Four appearances and in 2006, guided the Bruins back to the NCAA Championship Game (for the first time since the Bruins' 1995 national title run). UCLA also won the 2006 Pac-10 Tournament Championship (first since 1987). He garnered two National Coach of the Year honors in 2006 - the Jim Phelan Award (CollegeInsider.com) and from Collegehoops.net. Howland was the 2006 Pac-10 Coach of the Year and earned numerous other Conference Coach of the Year honors as well as being named the USBWA Dist. IX and Basketball Times All-West Coast Coach of the Year.
In 2006, he directed UCLA to the NCAA Championship game and to an NCAA Regional Championship, 32 victories (tying the school record 32 wins set in 1995) and a 12-game winning streak (longest since 1997) entering the NCAA title contest. In his 14th year as a collegiate head coach (he's been a Conference Coach of the Year selection in three different leagues - 2006, Pac-10 Coach of the Year at UCLA/2002, Big East Coach of the Year at Pittsburgh/1997, Big Sky Coach of the Year at Northern Arizona) and in his 27th season of collegiate basketball (as an assistant and head coach), he's 91-41 (.684, 132 games) at UCLA, including 80-24 (.769, 104 games) in his last two-plus seasons as the Bruins' head coach.
He has led a team to the "Sweet 16" for the fourth time in six years - Pittsburgh in 2002 and 2003 and UCLA in 2006 and 2007. Howland recorded his 50th Bruin win vs. Oregon State (Feb. 23), his 200th career win on Nov. 19 vs. Delaware State and won his 250th game in the 70-65 home win over 19th-ranked USC on Feb. 7, 2007. Howland's career mark is 259-140 (.649, 399 games).
After a two-year hiatus, Howland led the Bruins back to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and joined an elite list of college coaches who have led three teams to the "Big Dance" -- 2006 UCLA (NCAA Finalist)/2005 UCLA, 2003 Pittsburgh ("Sweet 16), 2002 Pittsburgh ("Sweet 16") and 1998 Northern Arizona. Following the 2005 NCAA Tournament, there were only 28 coaches in Tournament history that had guided three different schools to the Tournament. Howland's overall NCAA record is 13-6 (9-3 UCLA, 4-2 at Pittsburgh and 0-1 at NAU) and in 2006 he made his first trip to the Final Four as a head coach.
Howland's sound philosophies about coaching and recruiting have the Bruins pointed in a winning direction as he enters his fifth season as UCLA's head coach. Howland and his talented staff in 2004 recruited the nation's No. 4 (HoopMasters.com) incoming freshman class -- led by McDonald's All-Americans, point guard Jordan Farmar and guard Arron Afflalo, along with Parade Magazine All-American guard Josh Shipp and CalHi Sports All-State center/forward Lorenzo Mata. The 2005 class featured five of high school basketball's top seniors, considered to be among the best 100 players in North America -- 6-8 Alfred Aboya (Tilton Prep Academy/Tilton, N.H.), 6-1 Darren Collison (Etiwanda HS/Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), 6-8 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Montverde Academy/Montverde, Fla.), 6-5 Michael Roll (Aliso Niguel HS/Aliso Viejo, Calif.) and 6-8 Ryan Wright (Loyola Catholic HS/Mississauga, Ontario, Canada). In 2006, the Bruins signed three talented players -- McDonald's and Parade All-American 6-8 James Keefe (Rancho Santa Margarita HS), 6-8 Nikola Dragovic (Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro) and first-team All-CIF 6-3 Russell Westbrook (Leuzinger HS). In 2007, he landed the nation's top freshman, 6-10 National Player of the Year, Kevin Love (Lake Oswego, OR) and the Los Angeles Times' Player of the Year Chace Stanback.
It takes time and hard work to rebuild a program and there's not a collegiate head coach or staff in the United States that works harder than Howland and his Bruin assistants.
At UCLA, in his fourth season, he opened the year winning 14 straight games, including the Maui Invitational title, and won back-to-back Pac-10 regular season titles as well as guiding the Bruins' to its second-consecutive Final Four appearance. In his third season (2006), Howland led the Bruins back to the Final Four and NCAA Championship game and to the Pac-10 regular season and Tournament championships. In just his second season (2005) at UCLA, Howland led the Bruins to a third-place finish (tie) in the Pac-10 and back to the NCAA Tournament (first time since 2002). At Pittsburgh, he took over a losing program and by his third year (2002), the Panthers were in the NCAA "Sweet 16" and Howland was the consensus National Coach of the Year. In his fourth season (1998) at Northern Arizona, he led the Lumberjacks to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
"It's nice to be recognized, but you can never rest on what you've done," Howland said. "You have to keep working, keep pushing to get better. You've got to have good players. No one understands that more than me. I hope to think every year I'm a better coach than I was the year before. You hope to always improve."
UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero knew he had hired a winner on April 3, 2003, when Howland was announced as the Bruins' 12th head coach in the 87-year storied history of UCLA men's basketball.
"Ben Howland is an outstanding basketball coach, one of the best in the entire country and he is the man we want to run our program," Guerrero said. "He has built winning programs throughout his career and we expect that he will return UCLA basketball to the nation's elite. Ben understands that championships are built on defense, intensity, team-work and fundamentals, and those elements are the foundation of his philosophy. His teams come to play every night and they do an outstanding job on both ends of the floor."
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