UCLA's dismissal of Steve Lavin certainly wasn't a shock. But it's sad that it isn't good enough when a head coach takes his team to the Sweet 16 five of the past six seasons. Those are the expectations, though, with those 11 national-championship banners flying high in Pauley Pavilion.
Looking ahead at UCLA, the Bruins need a coach with a proven track record who can handle the pressure of being in the Los Angeles area, where there's such competition for the sports entertainment dollar from the Lakers, Dodgers and Kings. It can be difficult to thrive in that environment.
The list of candidates, both actual and rumored, will be incredible. Ben Howland, who's from California, has been mentioned. But he's built a great program at Pittsburgh, and he loves it there. I believe it will be difficult for UCLA to convince him to move.
Other candidates UCLA could consider include Tim Floyd and Lon Kruger, who both have NBA experience and demonstrated success at the college level. You'll also hear the name of Sixers coach Larry Brown mentioned. It will be a wide-open search.
But in addition to finding a new coach, UCLA must make a renewed commitment to basketball in terms of practice facilities and offices. Across America, schools like Oklahoma, Michigan State and Florida have invested in beautiful multimillion dollar facilities. The Bruins can't get by anymore on their mystique alone, on those magical letters, U-C-L-A. The program needs to make a financial commitment to excellence.
What's Next For Lavin?
Meanwhile, what's ahead for Lavin? He gained immeasurable experience coaching one of the nation's premier basketball programs, moving up from assistant to the head-coaching pressure-cooker (he was head coach for seven years).
He would be a perfect choice for either a mid-major or high-major school that doesn't pack the intense pressure he's experienced at UCLA.
Lavin is young and experienced, and he's been successful -- to the tune of five out of six Sweet 16s. Are you kidding me? He's on a short list of two coaches to accomplish that in the past six years -- with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski! Lavin also had six 20-win seasons before this year's 10-19 mark.
If I were Lavin, I'd want to go someplace where I could just coach, without all the extra pressure.