April 6, 2006
Ben Howland and UCLA came up short in Monday's NCAA championship game, but Howland was second to none in the voting for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award.
Howland, who received five first place votes, edged out North Carolina head coach Roy Williams by eight points in the final voting which was tabulated on March 12, before the start of the NCAA tournament.
"It is a privilege to receive an award named in honor of Jim Phelan, who is one of the great coaches in the history of college basketball," says Howland. "Most importantly, I want to credit my players and outstanding staff for this honor. I have the best staff in the country and feel very fortunate. And, as I have said many times, it's all about players and here at UCLA we have great players who are great human beings. Our UCLA players represent our basketball program and their families in a first-class manner."
Howland becomes the fourth recipient of the Jim Phelan Award, which was previously known as the CollegeInsider.com coach of the year. In March 2003 the award was renamed to honor the former Mount St. Mary's head coach who coached more games then anyone in the history of the game.
"Coach Howland did a phenomenal job with such a young team," said voting panel member and former Kentucky All-American Kyle Macy. "Despite all the injuries and adversity the Bruins won the Pac-10 championship. In a very short period of time he has changed the mindset of the program. He has returned the tradition to a tradition-rich program."
Despite all twelve scholarship players suffering from some type of injury this season, the Bruins continued to win, as they claimed their first Pac-10 title since 1997 and finished the regular season with a 27-6 record (14-4 in the Pac-10).
A great deal of UCLA's success this season was a result of a much-improved defense, which has become a staple of Howland's programs. The Bruins held opponents to less then 59 points per game and limited the opposition to under 42% shooting from the field.
Howland received a total of 52 points. Williams was second with 44, followed by Tennessee's Bruce Pearl (36) and Villanova's Jay Wright (30). George Washington's Karl Hobbs and Ohio State's Thad Matta finished tied for fifth with 27 points each.
"I want to thank the 20-member Phelan panel who recommended me for this prestigious honor," says Howland. "I want to congratulate the other 14 finalists. And a special thanks to Joe Dwyer and Angela Lento for their in-depth and entertaining coverage of college basketball on CollegeInsider.com."
Previous winners of the Phelan Award include Tubby Smith (Kentucky, 2005), Phil Martelli (St. Joseph's, 2004) and Mark Slonaker (Mercer, 2003).
This season's mid-season Phelan honors went to Florida head coach Billy Donovan.