Ben Howland Goes from Sidelines at UCLA to Insight as TV Analyst

By Hoffarth, Tom | Pasadena Star-News, November 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Ben Howland Goes from Sidelines at UCLA to Insight as TV Analyst


Hoffarth, Tom, Pasadena Star-News


Ben Howland once made for some great TV when, as the UCLA basketball coach, he was so upset by an official's call he ripped off his sports coat and threw it into the stands.

The strait-jacket moment almost took the head off Bruins radio analyst Tracy Murray. A technical foul came of it. Technically, that could have a turning point in Howland's TV persona.

The marriage of the otherwise non-gregarious Howland with a media career might not be perfect, but that is what's been arranged at this juncture, a full season removed from his decade-long run in Westwood.

NBC Sports and NBCSN vice president of production Dan Steir has steered Howland into doing a package of games for the peacock's cable outlet, which has a modest rights deal with the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

Howland's first NBCSN assignment is the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn the day after Thanksgiving, a two-game event with Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Virginia and La Salle. If he could hop on his bike and pedal to New York today, he would do it.

"Obviously, at UCLA you get a lot of media experience doing interviews and TV things, and there is a great skill in being on TV and explaining things - I have a lot of respect for that gift," the 57-year-old Howland said of what he can bring to a telecast. "It's a way for me to stay close to the game and add something to the experience for the fans. It's going to be a learning experience because I've never really done it."

Howland's coaching credentials speak for themselves, with three Final Four teams and four Pac-12 titles at UCLA. He made his national coach of the year splash while preaching non-TV-friendly defense at Pitt. It's been 20 years since his first Division I head coaching job at Northern Arizona.

UCLA still has him on the payroll for a couple more seasons after his buyout just a couple of days after a brutal 20-point loss in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. That mashing against Minnesota, by the way, was just a week after the coat-chucking incident in the Pac-12 Tournament final loss to Oregon.

Other schools have inquired about his services - most recently Oregon State, according to reports. Without getting into specifics, Howland just said he felt "at this time, this was the direction I wanted to go. This was best for me at this point. It'll be nice to be in normal basketball mode again."

Before Steir joined NBC in 2012, he worked for eight seasons producing college basketball on ESPN and coordinated "SportsCenter" coverage of the Final Four. That's his connection with Howland.

The 2014-15 college basketball regular season explodes this weekend. The Pac-12 Network has 10 games in a six-hour window Friday, including UCLA's opener against Montana State at 9 p.m. (with Jim Watson and Don MacLean, and free access on Pac-12.com). ESPN has its annual 24-hour marathon starting Monday night.

Howland has plenty of options to watch former coaches like Ben Braun, Mike Montgomery and Kevin O'Neil pad their resume while waiting for bench openings to consider. …

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