UCLA fires Ben Howland

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Five years ago Ben Howland led UCLA to its third consecutive Final Four, including a national title game appearance in 2006. It seemed like UCLA had found the proper successor to Steve Lavin in Ben Howland. Tonight Ben Howland is no longer employed in Westwood.

Yahoo! Sports broke the story a few hours ago. The official announcement from UCLA on the dismissal of Ben Howland should happen during the next couple of days. Again this will be a case of the press release being out-dated and useless by the time it’s sent out. Then again, people knew Ben Howland was on the hot seat for some time.

Too many good players transferred. Too many subpar seasons. As AWFUL as UCLA looked in their opening round loss to the Gophers, they are college hoops blue blood, literally and figuratively. The UCLA fight song is still the Mozart Symphony #40 of college basketball. Expectations are always sky high in Los Angeles.

11 National titles and 45 NCAA Tournament appearances will do that to you.

UCLA won the Pac-12 regular season title but their loss to Minnesota made this the fifth consecutive season the Bruins have not advanced past the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend. They finally had a very strong recruiting class, which propelled them to a top 15 preseason ranking. They entered the postseason a #6 seed and limping. Ben Howland was force to deal with the loss of second leading scorer Jordan Adams.

Second-year asst. Korey McCray will run the program during the coaching search, Yahoo’s sources said. McCray was instrumental in the recruitment of freshmen Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson and Adams, all of whom UCLA would obviously want to have stay in UCLA under the new regime. Shabazz Muhammad is as good as gone to the NBA, regardless.

As for Ben Howland, what about Howland at Northwestern?

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an author and regular contributor to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker. Banks has appeared on Comcast SportsNet and the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)

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