|Monday, March 17
Updated: March 18, 5:50 PM ET
Top candidates may be too rich for Bruins' blood
By Andy Katz
UCLA has a major decision to make: whether to continue to shop for a bargain, or pay for a high-profile coach.
UCLA has traditionally been one of the cheapest programs among high-profile schools. The Bruins were paying Steve Lavin $580,000, which was the most it has ever ponied up for a men's basketball coach.
If the Bruins can't come up with the money to pay a big-time coach, the pool of candidates will be small. But it would include San Diego's Brad Holland, Gonzaga's Mark Few and UC Irvine's Pat Douglass, who worked under UCLA's present athletics director Dan Guerrero.
Holland told ESPN.com that he wants the job. He played at UCLA, beat the Bruins this season and has the Toreros in the NCAA Tournament. Few, whose Gonzaga club is making its third straight NCAA appearance under his guidance, would likely listen hard to the Bruins, but would have a difficult time leaving the comfort zone of his native Northwest. Douglass would obviously jump at the job.
If the Bruins can come up with enough money to handle a $1.3 million buyout for Lavin and pay a buyout for Pittsburgh's Ben Howland, then Howland becomes a formidable candidate.
Howland continues to deny any interest, and talks about the extension he just signed last season -- a new seven-year contract. But Howland is too smart to say he would listen to UCLA while his team is a contender for the national title. Howland is tight with adidas' Sonny Vaccaro, who helped him get the Pittsburgh job. UCLA is an adidas-sponsored school and Vaccaro could help Howland with the UCLA community.
Howland would be a natural fit as he could return to his Southern California roots after coaching at Santa Barbara as an assistant.
But money will become an issue, if not the deciding issue, for Howland. He won't go for less money than he's making at Pittsburgh, and UCLA will have to factor in a cost of living raise for Howland as well.
Money will also be the main concern if UCLA wants to lure former pro coaches like Lon Kruger or Tim Floyd. The Bruins have one of the highest profile jobs, but coaches won't go there if they aren't compensated. The cost of living in Los Angeles and the undue pressure that comes along with the job are factors for any UCLA candidate.
If the Bruins are willing to open their wallet, the pool of candidates will open up as well. But that's a big 'if,' and becomes the biggest question in Westwood over the next few weeks.
Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown on Tuesday quashed reports that claimed he's interested in the job.
"There is nothing to those rumors," Brown said on The Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN Radio. "Down the line, I could see myself being a high school or college coach, but not right now. You know, the one job I wanted was the North Carolina job, but it didn't work out."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.