Mar 2, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Ben Howland reacts during the first half against the Arizona Wildcats at the Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Tigers Basketball: Could Ben Howland Be The Answer In Columbia?

As Missouri Tigers Athletic Director Mike Alden continues his search for the next head basketball coach, there has been nothing but sheer speculation by fans and media members alike as to who he will hire or even who the favorites might be.

Names like Kim Anderson from Central Missouri have the fan base split,  you’ll find passionate opinions from both sides. And  of course there’s Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall is considered the  “Home Run” hire, but would surely cost a pretty penny, most likely in the 3 million per year range. But who else could the Tigers potentially hire?

A candidate that makes a whole lot of sense and has had his name floated by many including ESPN’s Dick Vitale himself. That man is former UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

So you might be wondering who exactly is Ben Howland. Well here you go. Howland is a well respected basketball coach with a very impressive resume currently unemployed but has had  impressive runs at three different schools.

Starting at Northern Arizona where he coached from 1994-1999, followed by Pittsburgh from 2000-2003, and most recently he coached at legendary program UCLA from 2003-2013 where he led the Bruins to three straight Final Four appearances.

Even after he was fired from his UCLA gig after a decade, his squad still managed a 25-10 record which was good enough to win the Pac-12 title and make it to the NCAA tournament. However, coupled with all of his success over the years,  Howland carries a fair amount of controversy as well.

A Sports Illustrated article which came out in early 2012 painted a damaging picture of Coach Howland and his coaching staff for the way they handled players during practice, and specifically how they disciplined.

It revolved primarily around former player Reeves Nelson who reportedly bullied and even physically injured fellow teammates before eventually being dismissed from the program by Howland. Perhaps most troubling in the article  is there are also reports of major drug and alcohol issues in the program at the time, by certain players, and it raised some serious questions as what program Howland had let UCLA become.

Players were partying frequently before games, practices were sloppy. What started out as just a few players had a domino effect on the entire team. Known as a strict disciplinarian on and off the court, Howland had lost his handle on a program he had helped rekindle into national prominence.

Without defending the negligence from Howland and his staff, let’s not pretend this hasn’t happened or couldn’t happen at countless other programs across the country depending on the players and surrounding circumstances.

There were clearly mistakes made, but at the end of the day these are still kids fresh out of high school, entering the freedom of college, and the decadence of college athletics.

Despite leaving UCLA after a decade of some fantastic highs and some disappointing lows, Howland is a proven winner. He has successfully turned around three programs, including one of the Blood Blood programs in the country in UCLA. His career coaching record is an impressive 399-208, including 233-107 at UCLA alone.

He coached future NBA stars Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook. The man knows how to coach a basketball team, and maybe more importantly for Missouri, he knows how to build a program into a consistent winner.

Mike Alden needs to make a splash with his next basketball coach, but with all due respect to Kim Anderson, he can’t be the man to lead in Columbia. No, Alden needs a proven winner at this level. Someone who can recruit and coach against the likes of John Calipari and Billy Donovan in the SEC. Does he have baggage? Sure. But I firmly believe the reward far outweighs the risk in this case.

I feel giving Howland the chance to rebuild Missouri Basketball would be a task he absolutely relishes, and after the sour taste in his mouth from UCLA, he would be out to prove the naysayers wrong. We are all in the dark it seems when it comes to news on the coaching search, but keep an eye on Ben Howland. He may be just the man the Missouri Tigers need to lead them into a new era.

So what do you think Tiger fans? Should Missouri pursue Ben Howland? Sound off in the comments below! Be sure to check out KC Kingdom throughout the day for news on the Chiefs, Royals, Sporting KC, Tigers, Wildcats, and Jayhawks.

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Tags: Ben Howland Dick Vitale Mike Alden Missouri Tigers SEC Basketball

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