|Ben Howland is out as UCLA's head coach. Who will replace him in LA? (espn.com)|
UCLA and Minnesota have more in common than just meeting in the round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins and Gophers fired their respective head coaches, Ben Howland and Tubby Smith, within 24 hours of each other Sunday and Monday.
Howland was with the program for 10 years, reaching three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008, but the final five years have been filled with disappointment and scandal. Smith finished his sixth season and while he won his first NCAA Tournament game with the Gophers (against the Bruins), Smith had a 124-81 overall record and a 46-62 record in the Big 10.
Neither of these moves caught people by total surprise. Questions around Howland and Smith's future have been floating around for a while now, and the biggest question now is who will take their place, and more specifically, can UCLA land a young, established coach like Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens?
Smart seems more likely to head to LA than Stevens as Butler will be heading to a BCS conference in the Big East. And when people are talking about Stevens replacing Coach K at Duke, it would be hard for him to hurt his potential by failing out west.
UCLA would have to shell out a decent about of money for Smart, who's salary was broken down by USA Today at the end of last season, but after seeing what Smart has done at Virginia Commonwealth, it's hard to say he's not worth it. If Smart wants the job, it would seem realistic it is his for the taking. The question is if UCLA could lure Smart away. Illinois couldn't do it last year, but it also doesn't have the history and tradition of UCLA.
Other coaches that national analysts are talking about as possible candidates include Buzz Williams from Marquette, Jay Wright from Villanova and Lorenzo Romar from Washington.
With everything that has gone on in Southern California the past five years, what UCLA needs is stability. A young, but established, coach who can bring a reputable resumé and discipline to a former powerhouse that has lost its way is exactly what the Bruins need.
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