Pac-12: UCLA's search will define program's status
Even with Arizona and Oregon advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, the biggest news in Pac-12 basketball this past weekend was UCLA's firing of coach Ben Howland.
The move drove home the point that failing to reach the Sweet 16 for five straight years trumps playing in three consecutive Final Fours. Howland, a former Weber State player, was dismissed after the Bruins lost badly to Minnesota in the round of 64.
It's a bold move by UCLA's administration, and what comes next will be very interesting. This coaching search will serve as a gauge of what UCLA - "those four letters," to use one of Howland's expressions - mean in the marketplace these days. It's a test of the program's status in college basketball. If the Bruins can lure one of the profession's rising stars or another proven coach, they can re-establish themselves as a Pac-12 power.
Wait. They won the conference championship this year, right? That's not good enough in Pauley Pavilion, where the only banners represent NCAA titles. But the quality of coach UCLA is able to land undoubtedly will affect everybody else in the conference.