After Sports Illustrated shined a light on the inner workings of UCLA basketball under Ben Howland, don’t be surprised if Howland stands for the Bruins regular season finale tonight against Washington State.  With a sub-.500 record for the third season in a row, Howland’s should keep his coaching hot seat from any flammable liquids.

There isn’t one singular reason for Howland’s feeling the heat but Sports Illustrated called attention to a whole new set of factors. There aren’t any NCAA violations within the article.

However, the totality of circumstances are against Howland. Howland isn’t JUST losing at UCLA. He can’t relate to his players and it appears he doesn’t even try. His assistants and support staff can’t seem to stand him. He doesn’t appear to respect them.

Of course over the next few days we’ll hear from the one or two people who can vouch for Howland’s character because he once gave them a ride to a high school basketball game or brought them an ice cream cone, however, the story was emblematic of the type of person Howland is. He basically treated those with less stature than him like trash. Meanwhile, he allowed Reeves Nelson to do the same. Worst of all, he allowed a single player to rule his program for three years. Because of Howland’s unwillingness or inability to reign in Nelson, Drew Gordon, Mike Moser and Matt Carlino transferred.

These factors are part of winning. Howland didn’t have to be a Bobby Knight-type disciplinarian but he also didn’t have to turn a blind eye like he was Stevie Wonder at the movies.

Perhaps the combination of the four transfers (not including Nelson) who have each become major contributors on NCAA Tournament teams led to the decline of the program but it doesn’t explain how he remained so ambivalent to the apathy plaguing his program.

I’m not into this whole tradition of quoting John Wooden’s sappy virtues every time something goes right or wrong with UCLA’s basketball program. Whether he realized it or not, Howland may have spelled out his ultimate fate with his own words. According to the Sports Illustrated story, when asked by a player why he didn’t punish Nelson, Howland replied, “He produces”.

Howland has produced a 51-42 record since 2009. However, he once again reeled in another top recruiting class, which should enable him to keep his job for another season. Dismissing Reeves Nelson was a start but Howland likely has one more season to begin producing the perennial contender he was hired to produce and save his job. However, the invisible coach, who never gave many a glimpse into the program or his personality, has just as much work to do to save his reputation.