April 2, 2003
Ben Howland, who led the University of Pittsburgh to a record of 28-5, a No. 4 ranking on the final Associated Press poll and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season, has been named the new men's head basketball coach at UCLA, athletic director Dan Guerrero announced today.
Howland and Guerrero will be available at a press conference at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday (April 3) in the Press Room of the J.D. Morgan Athletics Center.
The new Bruin coach has spent the last four years building the Pittsburgh basketball program into one of the finest in the nation. In the last two seasons, he guided the Panthers to a record of 57-11, reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in both years and captured the 2003 Big East Tournament championship behind a solid foundation of hard work, concentration on fundamentals and defensive intensity.
"Ben Howland is an outstanding basketball coach, one of the best in the entire country, and he is the man we want to run our program," said Guerrero. "He has built winning programs throughout his career and we expect that he will return UCLA basketball to the nation's elite.
"Ben understands that championships are built on defense, intensity, teamwork and fundamentals and those elements are the foundation of his philosophy. His teams come to play every night and they do an outstanding job on both ends of the floor.
"We are excited about bringing Ben back to the West Coast and we are excited about the future of Bruin basketball," Guerrero concluded.
"I am honored to be the head basketball coach at UCLA and I am grateful to Dan for giving me this opportunity," said Howland, the consensus National Coach of the Year in 2002. "Having grown up in southern California as a Bruin fan, watching the televised replays of the games was special for me. To now be the head coach of this program is something I dreamed about but never thought possible.
"I have an appreciation for what these four letters mean in the world of college basketball. We should be competing for the Pacific-10 title and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament year-in and year out and I look forward to that challenge.
"At the same time, I want to make it clear how hard it was for me to leave the University of Pittsburgh," Howland continued. "I can't imagine myself leaving Pittsburgh for anywhere except UCLA. The last four years have been the most enjoyable of my career and that's because of the support my family and I received from the Pittsburgh administration, the community and, most importantly, the players. Those young men worked very hard to be successful. I know the program will continue to enjoy success and I am proud to have played a role in the rebuilding of the Panther basketball program.
Howland, 45 (he was born on May 28, 1957 in Lebanon, OR), took over the Pittsburgh program in March of 1999 and guided it back into the national spotlight. He generated an unprecedented level of enthusiasm and excitement for Panther basketball both on and off the floor. In his four years, the Panthers compiled a record of 89-40.
This past season, Howland led the Panthers to a record of 28-5 and a No. 4 ranking on the final Associated Press poll. Pittsburgh earned a second straight trip to the NCAA Sweet 16, won a second straight Big East West regular-season championship and, on March 15, defeated Connecticut to win its first-ever Big East Tournament title. The Panthers entered their NCAA Sweet 16 game against Marquette with an 11-game winning streak. On the season, only five of Pittsburgh's 33 opponents shot better than 50.0% from the field and 16 shot less than 40.0%. Overall, Pittsburgh held opponents to just 39.0% shooting from the field and 59.2 points per game while averaging 74.9 points on offense.
In 2001-02, Howland guided Pittsburgh to a school-record 29 wins, surpassing the former school record of 25 victories set in 1973-74. He led the Panthers to the Big East West regular season championship - the first time Pittsburgh won a Big East men's basketball title of any kind since the 1987-88 campaign. He then led the Panthers to their first NCAA tournament appearance in nine seasons (1992-93). In addition, he became the first Pittsburgh head coach in 26 years to garner National Coach of the Year honors as he earned nine coaching awards including the Associated Press, Naismith, Henry Iba and The Sporting News national accolades along with Big East Coach of the Year honors.
Howland also became the first Pittsburgh coach since Charles "Buzz" Ridl in 1973-74 to lead the Panthers to a NCAA Sweet 16 appearance with two NCAA Tournament victories over Central Connecticut State and California. Including the two NCAA Tournament wins, Pittsburgh went 11-2 over its last 13 games with its only losses coming on a double overtime defeat in the Big East Championship title game and an overtime loss to Kent State in the NCAA's Sweet 16. Under Howland's direction, point guard Brandin Knight earned All America honors along with USBWA District 1 Player of the Year and co-Big East Player of the Year accolades.
In 2000-01, the Panthers surged through the conference tournament to earn a surprising title game berth and won five of their last seven contests. But it was in Madison Square Garden in 2000-01 that the college basketball world first began to take notice of Howland and his emerging program at Pittsburgh. That year, he directed Pittsburgh on a dramatic run through the Big East Championship as the Panthers upset three higher-seeded opponents - nationally ranked Syracuse, Notre Dame and a surging Miami team - to earn the school's first-ever berth in the title game. That strong finish resulted in a National Invitation Tournament berth, its first postseason appearance in four years.
Howland arrived at Pittsburgh in 1999 with a reputation for developing great shooting teams. Not surprisingly, the Panthers dramatically improved in that regard. But Howland's real imprint on the Panthers has been the team's passionate dedication to defense. As a result, Pittsburgh ranked among the Big East's best in scoring defense each of the last two years. The 2001-02 Panthers topped the Big East Conference, yielding just 60.9 points per game.
Howland's influence was evident even after his first season at Pittsburgh. In 1999-2000, the Panthers improved in nearly every offensive category including field goal percentage (both overall and 3-point), assists and rebounding. Under Howland's tutelage, Ricardo Greer blossomed into one of the top players in the Big East. Greer was selected by the league coaches as the Big East Co-Most Improved Player in 1999-2000 and concluded his collegiate career as a two-time All-Big East performer.
Howland joined the Panthers after orchestrating one of the best turnarounds in NCAA history at Northern Arizona. His highly successful five-year tenure at Northern Arizona saw him transform the Lumberjacks from one of the nation's weakest programs into a perennial postseason contender and consistent NCAA Tournament participant. In his final year at NAU, Howland led the Lumberjacks to a 21-8 record, its third consecutive 20+ win season.
Howland's first two teams at Northern Arizona finished 9-17 (1994-95) and 7-19 (1995-96), finishing in seventh place each season. However, his 1996-97 squad went 21-7 and set the school-record for wins while achieving the 10th best single-season turnaround in NCAA men's basketball history. Northern Arizona captured the Big Sky regular-season championship by three games and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament as Howland was named the conference's Coach of the Year.
The following season, the Howland-led Lumberjacks advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history after capturing the Big Sky Tournament championship and second straight regular-season title. In its first round of NCAA play against No. 2 seed Cincinnati, Northern Arizona led the heavily favored Bearcats for the majority of the game before falling on a last second 3-pointer, 65-62.
During Howland's five-year tenure, Northern Arizona emerged into one of the country's top shooting teams. In 1998-99, NAU became the first team in NCAA history to lead the country in both field goal percentage (.523) and 3-point field goal percentage (.445) in the same season. Additionally, the Lumberjacks led the nation in 3-point shooting in both 1997 (.419) and 1998 (.430), while finishing second nationally in field goal percentage (.516 in 1997 and .511 in 1998).
From 1997 to 1998, Howland's teams produced back-to-back conference titles and also consecutive Big Sky Player of the Year honorees in Charles Thomas and Andrew Mavis. Northern Arizona tied a league record for most wins over a two-year span (27) and ranked among the nation's Top 30 in wins over that same period. With Howland's success, the city of Flagstaff, AZ, proclaimed April 27, 1998 "Ben Howland Day."
While the success of Howland's teams on the court is impressive, his programs have also produced top-notch students. In 1998, NAU and Utah were the only two schools in the nation to reach the NCAA Tournament and record a team grade-point average over a 3.0.
Prior to his Northern Arizona appointment, Howland served as an assistant coach at the University of California, Santa Barbara for 12 years (1982-83 through 1993-94). During that time, he tutored eventual NBA players Brian Shaw and Conner Henry. He also oversaw the development of UCSB's Eric McArthur, the nation's second-leading rebounder in 1990, and Gary Gray, an All-Big West Conference selection. In Howland's last seven years at the school, the Gauchos advanced to the postseason play on five occasions.
Howland enjoyed a standout playing career at Weber State where he was named the team's Most Valuable Defensive Player in both 1978 and 1979. He led the Wildcats to two Big Sky championships and a pair of NCAA Tournament berths.
Howland's basketball legacy of success dates back to his high school days. After beginning his prep career as a highly decorated player at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, CA, he finished with two Suburban League Most Valuable Player honors at Cerritos (CA) High School. He was also a two-time selection to the All-California Interscholastic Federation list. His collegiate career began at Santa Barbara City College in 1975-76 and 1976-77 where he was named team captain and led the Vaqueros to the California finals in 1978.
Following his collegiate career, Howland spent time playing professionally in Uruguay. He landed his first NCAA Division I coaching job in the 1981 season as a graduate assistant at Gonzaga University in Spokane, where he coached future NBA Hall of Fame and Utah Jazz guard John Stockton before moving to UCSB the following year (1982-83).
Howland and his wife, Kim, a former Weber State cheerleader, have two children, Meredith (17) and Adam (15). He has a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education from Weber State University (1980) and a Masters Degree in Administration and Physical Education from Gonzaga (1981).