College basketball notebook: Howland bids farewell to UCLA
LOS ANGELES — Ben Howland kept it classy in departing as UCLA basketball coach on Monday, thanking the athletic director who had fired him a day earlier while noting the high expectations that come with running a program that owns a record 11 national championships.
Howland was applauded by supporters as he walked into a news conference at Pauley Pavilion for the last time. The 55-year-old coach expressed gratitude for his 10-year run in Westwood, the longest tenure since John Wooden retired in 1975 after 27 years on the sideline.
Howland had a 233-107 record that included three consecutive Final Four appearances and four Pac-12 titles, including this season, when the Bruins were 25-10. Their season ended with a 20-point loss to Minnesota in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“As a coach, you always remember the losses way better than the wins,” he said.
Howland said he's excited about his future and wants to coach again, although he doesn't know where or when that will happen.
He said he took the unusual step of meeting the media after his firing because he wanted to publicly thank his current and former players and staff. No senior athletic department officials attended, including athletic director Dan Guerrero, who fired Howland in a meeting Sunday.
Howland declined to discuss details of what was said.
“I enjoyed our working relationship, his support and his regard for all we accomplished,” Howland said, reading from a prepared statement.
Minnesota fires Smith
Minnesota fired Tubby Smith on Monday, cutting ties with the veteran coach one day after the Golden Gophers lost to Florida in the NCAA tournament.
Athletics director Norwood Teague said it was time for a “fresh set of eyes” on the program.
Smith was 124-81 (.610) in six seasons at Minnesota, helping to bring the program back to respectability and ramping up expectations for a team hit hard by an academic cheating scandal.
Smith won 20 games five times. But he went just 46-62 in Big Ten play and never finished higher than sixth in the conference. The Gophers made three NCAA tournament appearances under Smith.
Appling says he's OK
Michigan State guard Keith Appling said he'll be “all right” in the Midwest Regional semifinals against Duke.
Appling practiced Monday with his banged-up right shoulder in a protective wrap after taking a pad off his left knee.
He hurt his shoulder in Saturday's win over Memphis with 8:35 left in the game and didn't return. He has been playing with a sore knee.
Appling hopes he doesn't have to play with any protection when the Spartans meet the Blue Devils on Friday.
Tournament ratings up
The NCAA tournament's first week has earned its highest television rating in 15 years.
The broadcasts on CBC, TBS, TNT and truTV averaged a 5.8 household rating and 12 share, the highest rating for the tournament's first week since 1998. That year, the rating was 5.9 and 15 share.
The networks say that's up 27 percent from last year's 5.6 and 11.
The broadcasts also had the highest viewership since 1993, averaging 8.9 million total viewers — a 9-percent increase from a year ago.
Butler assistant to South Alabama
South Alabama hired Butler associate head coach Matthew Graves as its head basketball coach hoping to duplicate some of the NCAA tournament success that program has enjoyed in recent years.
Graves doesn't think the winning will take long for the Sun Belt Conference program and said that was his message in a brief locker room visit with the Jaguars players.