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Bill Walton isn’t a fan of UCLA head coach Ben Howland

Feb 8, 2013, 10:55 AM EST

Washington UCLA Basketball AP

For those who watch college basketball on a regular basis, last night’s contest between Washington and UCLA simply served as more evidence to the fact that color commentator Bill Walton is not a fan of UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

During one exchange between Walton and play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch, as noted by Adam Zagoria of SNY, the Hall of Famer who played at UCLA for John Wooden stated that things would be different if he were in charge.

Pasch: “OK, well, that’s obvious. How do you play better basketball?”

Walton: “Better style.”

Pasch: “Alright, so, is that the coach? Is that the players?”

Walton: “It’s the coach.

Pasch: “So you’re not a Ben Howland fan?”

Walton: “No.”

To Pasch’s credit he followed up with asking Walton whether or not Howland’s time in Westwood was running out, which is when Walton noted that things would be different if he were the one in charge.

Does that mean he would fire Howland if in the position of athletic director Dan Guerrero? He didn’t come out and use those words, but how different can things be without making such a move?

There’s no doubt that UCLA, who moved to 17-6 overall and 7-3 in Pac-12 play with the 59-57 win over the Huskies, has some talented players led by freshman Shabazz Muhammad. But what they don’t have is depth.

The decisions of Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith opened things up in regards to guys getting more playing time, but it also left the Bruins with a rotation that at best has seven players. Freshman forward Tony Parker, who struggled with various injuries early in the season, still has not reached the point where he can contribute on a consistent basis.

Yet even with this lack of depth UCLA is averaging 71.3 possessions per 40 minutes, a number that ranks 26th nationally and first in the Pac-12 according to statsheet.com. That likely leads to the way in which Howland uses his timeouts, looking to conserve the legs of his most important players (four starters played 30 minutes or more last night), which has been another point of contention for Walton.

The Bruins are right in the thick of the Pac-12 race but there’s been the prevailing feeling that this group has “underachieved.” Maybe people have been spoiled by two things in evaluating this group: how dominant Kentucky’s youngsters were last season, and by how dominant Coach Wooden was during the glory years in Westwood.

With a second game against first-place Arizona in early March (UCLA won the first game in Tucson) the Bruins could very well end up winning the Pac-12, and there’s the NCAA tournament ahead of this group as well. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for some folks.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

  1. Tim's Neighbor - Feb 8, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    Bill Walton really likes Bill Walton.

    • florida727 - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      Bill Walton isn’t a fan of UCLA head coach Ben Howland

      In a related story, no one is a fan of Bill Walton’s.

  2. manchestermiracle - Feb 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    What would be “enough” for Bruin fans would be correcting the players’ inconsistency. Beating Arizona was nice, but then losing to Arizona State proved the concern. Howland is supposed to be known for defense, but the team often doesn’t bother for long stretches.

    Poor shot selection, a lack of penetration, and stagnant ball movement against the Huskies help explain why the Bruins couldn’t pull away despite multiple UW turnovers.

    Players bailing on the program, resulting in a lack of depth, also makes one wonder about the coaching staff. Walton had the luxury of playing for one of the iconic coaches in the game, so his tendency to compare Howland to Wooden is understandable if unfair. Yet, at this point in the season, Bruin fans are starting to wonder if this team can become consistently good enough to go anywhere in any tournament, NCAA or NIT, and that’s on the coach.

  3. drewvt6 - Feb 8, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Maybe the Lakers and UCLA should just swap coaches. Lakers need a defensive minded coach while UCLA needs a D’Antoni type to recruit the best players in SoCal and run opponents out of the gym.

  4. fpstratton - Feb 8, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    I understand some people’s frustration with UCLA’s inconsistency, but we’re not in the 1970′s anymore. Bill Walton was part of the greatest college basketball dynasty ever. Of course he’s going to be negative about the current regime. It’s the same reason Magic Johnson was never a great coach. People such as this think that everyone should be as good and dedicated as they were, and that every coach should be a John Wooden. That’s not going to happen. I think this UCLA team still has the chance to do something special in March if they start building a foundation for a good run right now. Oftentimes, the eventual NCAA champion doesn’t get hot until late February. It’s all about the next few weeks, and UCLA has the talent to make a run. Let’s give Ben Howland a chance with this team. If it doesn’t win in the tournament, then by all means, all options for chance are on the table, including a coaching change.

  5. blueballzny - Feb 8, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    I can’t stand listening to Bill Walton. Whose bright idea was it to hire this clown? I haven’t been able to watch more than 5 minutes of a UCLA game because I want to strangle him. He forgets that people tune in to watch the game, not hear him talk about himself. Seriously, get rid of him already.

  6. bruceuwfan - Feb 8, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    It took no more than 5 minutes of listening to Walton’s self-aggrandizing diatribes for me to turn off the TV sound and listen to Bob Rondeau’s Husky radio-cast. Just how bad is Walton? Bad enough that I endured a 5-second sound delay watching the game! He is absolutely the worst announcer I’ve ever heard. I can tolerate a homer but he is ego-maniacal. He focuses on the court action10% of the time and spends the balance name-dropping, reliving the past and criticizing the coaches. The network should dump him before all PAC 12 fans have to endure 5-second sound delays.

  7. omniusprime - Feb 9, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    I’m with Bill Walton who knows a thing or three about winning national and world championships. Howland has been bad at retaining good talent at UCLA. The past few years Howland has chased off too many good players that UCLA could really use now. Granted Howland has improved UCLA’s lot over the past few seasons but UCLA could be so much better witht he two he chased off this season. If any more players leave UCLA then Howland has to go.

    Go Bruins!!!

  8. mrklutch - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    I thought it was funny when Shabazz sulked and didn’t celebrate with his team when he didn’t get the last shot. What a douche.

    • florida727 - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:40 AM

      Even the TV geeks zeroed in on him afterward. Everyone’s jumping around and high-fiving. Shabumzz? Just walks off the court sulking. Probably wanted to take his ball and go home right then. Lost a lot of respect for him. That’s for sure. Nice player, but not nearly as good as HE thinks he is.

  9. manofthepeople13 - Feb 9, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    Bill Walton is the strangest-looking persons I’ve ever looked at. When I look at him, it makes me want to cringe. And when you combine his strange-looking face with his odd-sounding voice, it’s like my inner equilibrium is all disrupted and it’s all I can do to listen without getting nauseous.

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