Sports Illustrated just published a scathing story by George Dohrmann about the anarchy that’s taken over the UCLA basketball program in recent years.Between 2006 and 2008, UCLA made three straight Final Fours.
But since then, they’ve been awful.
Based on interviews with former players and coaches, Dohrmann concludes that a lack of discipline and leadership after 2008 led to the program’s downfall.
And by “lack of discipline,” we mean players fighting, players drinking, players abusing staff, and head coach Ben Howland letting it all go.
There’s nothing in the story that will draw the gaze of the NCAA, and the tales of mischief are relatively petty compared to the exploits of other programs. But it still paints an ugly picture of the once-storied program. Here are the juiciest details:
- UCLA’s great teams in the mid-00s (which had Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Darren Collison, among others), would get driven to Los Angeles clubs in Rolls Royces paid for by rich alumni. But they were largely self-disciplined and kept the partying under control.
- Three unnamed players went to a New Year’s Eve rave in 2008 and took ecstasy after Howland urged them not to go out. They went to bed at 4 a.m., woke up for an 8 a.m. practice, and bragged to teammates that they could still feel the effects of the drug.
- Players described Howland as “socially awkward.” The story alleges that if the temperature in his film room wasn’t exactly 76 degrees, he would freak out. His water bottles had to be “just cold enough and not too large.”
- Howland got angry that Russell Westrbrook was taking (and making) so many wild shots in a game during the 2007-08 season. But instead of taking him out, he told the ref that Westbrook was illegally wearing a pair of NBA-brand socks.
- Three freshmen during the 2008-09 season (Jerime Anderson, J’mison Morgan, and Drew Gordon) allegedly smoked weed and drank a lot, sometimes before practices.
- Reeves Nelson, who was eventually kicked off the team this season, was a menace. He allegedly once peed all over his teammate Tyler Honeycutt’s clothes and bed because he thought Honeycutt told coach Howland about a New Year’s Eve party they were going to.
- Nelson frequently injured players in practice, targeting players who weren’t as athletic as him. He reinjured the shoulder of forward James Keefe. He threw bench player Tyler Trapani to the ground and hurt his back on a fast break.
- Nelson also terrorized freshmen Matt Carlino during practice when he had a concussion. Eventually Carlino left the program after less than a season.
- Nelson would kick the ball into the rafters at the end of practice and tell student assistants to “fetch.”
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