Who Is In Line To Replace Howland?

As all Bruin fans are aware of now Ben Howland has been fired.  While I am not sure how I feel about him being fired I will admit that I feel like he got a raw deal.  His team won the Pac-12 title outright this season and if it wasn't for a freak injury to Jordan Adams they probably would have won the tournament title.  On top of that they would have gotten a better seeding in the tournament and would probably still be playing right now.  Oh well, that is life I guess.  UCLA is now in search of a new coach.  Here is a list of the 5 leading candidates.  They may not be the most realistic coaches, but come on it's not like my opinion is going to be changing the minds of the UCLA Athletic Department.

#5 Phil Jackson

Yes that Phil Jackson.  The same one that has 11 NBA titles now and is in search of a new coaching gig.  I must say that this move would be a slight step backwards, but say he were to coach at UCLA and win a couple of NCAA titles.  Who in their right mind wouldn't call Jackson the greatest coach of all time and isn't that just exactly the title he is searching for?  I am in no way assuming that Jackson is on the radar at UCLA.  If he were to come in and institute the triangle offense and somehow find players who were competent enough to run it, I think they would be the frontrunners for the next couple of years.

#4 Greg Marshall

Marshall is currently the coach at Wichita State and has his Shockers team in the Sweet 16.  I think he has done quite the job at Wichita State.  I feel like every year I see them win some big games on national television and bow out in the first round of the tournament.  A worthy accomplishment for a mid-major program.  The one knock on him is that UCLA wants a coach that is proven.  Marshall may be proven at the mid-major level, but coaching at UCLA is much different than his current job.  He would take some lumps at the beginning of the job and probably some criticism by those fans who want to see a big name in Westwood.

#3 Mark Gottfried

Gottfried is the only person on this list that has any ties to the UCLA program.  He was an assistant coach under Jim Harrick during the last championship in 1995.  I assume that he could be looking for a new job considering his current NC State team lost in the opening round while starting the season off as a top-5 program.  His team had tons of talent and yet was unable to live up to expectations.  Also, I think that most of that talent he had will be making the jump to the next level and therefore leaving him with a rebuilding program.  Gottfried would be smart to take a look at the UCLA gig before deciding to stay at NC State.

#2 Brad Stevens

Everyone's favorite Indiana coach.  Sorry Tom Crean, but at this point right now Brad Stevens has been to more NCAA finals than you have.  I have a feeling that Stevens is gonna be waiting out the Indiana job or maybe waiting until Mike Krzyzewski job at Duke.  A program that carries a little more clout right now.  Who knows when those jobs will be open however and Stevens may be ready to make the jump to a bigger program.  The problem is that Stevens is a low key personality and we all know the stress of winning can place on a coach at UCLA.  I don't see Stevens taking this job unless there are some considerable demands met and UCLA won't be willing to make those demands.

#1 Shaka Smart

Smart is the best choice for the UCLA program.  It is well known the type of coaching job he has done at VCU.  He has been to a final four and has led that program to the national spotlight in a few short years.  He won't necessarily want to take on the UCLA program though.  He doesn't have any ties to the program and he may want to sit back and wait out a few other big time coaching gigs.  That being said, he is ready to leave VCU.  He has done all he can at the mid-major level and needs another challenge.  There is no bigger challenge in college basketball than trying to live up to the lofty expectations left by John Wooden.  Nobody has been able to as of yet.  Smart should feel confident in taking on that challenge and be ready for the glitz and glamour of the program.  I expect Smart will be the next UCLA coach and just like when Ben Howland took over the Bruins I think Smart can lead this program back to its national championship past.

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