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Ted Green: What's going on with UCLA basketball?

November 21, 2009 |  3:54 am

Ben Howland What in the name of Gail Goodrich and Walt Hazzard, Lewis Alcindor, the Walton Gang , Nell and John Wooden Court and everything holy in Westwood did I just watch?

That was UCLA basketball?

Losing to Cal State Fullerton and now down 10 to Cal State Bakersfield in the opening half?

Goodness, gracious, sakes alive.

Who's next, Cal State . . . Channel Islands? San Marcos? Dominguez Hills?

If UCLA has an open date tomorrow, I hear Stanislaus is looking for a game.

But Bakersfield? The last time I even heard the name Bakersfield mentioned in public, John Steinbeck was writing about dust bowls in "The Grapes of Wrath."

Normally, any UCLA team going back half a century would eat a Cal State Bakersfield for breakfast. Certainly Bakersfield has plenty of Denny's.

But in case you haven't noticed, things are not normal in Howlandville, far from it.

If you respect the decades of sustained excellence that UCLA basketball stands for, it's almost unbearable to watch how far the mighty have fallen.

If you like movie trivia, Coach Ben Howland (pictured above) is aptly named Ben because I smell a rat.

It's true, in the second half, UCLA's five-star recruits and Parade All-Americans managed to get over on Bakersfield's future gas station owners and avocado farmers.

Yet with Arron Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Kevin Love and Darren Collison playing in the NBA, and with five freshmen, nine sophomores, no point guard and no cohesion, Howland's current club makes Steve Lavin's teams look like the Walton Gang.

If Pauley Pavilion is a shrine, the Sistine Chapel of college basketball, someone is spray-painting the ceiling, defacing it with blue and gold graffiti.

Fair to point out: The Bruins' basketball legacy is presumably too rich for anyone or anything to chip away at it, especially one unusually bad season. Still, I wish someone would remove the chisels from underneath the UCLA bench.

As a UCLA student back in the day, I reveled in the Alcindor years, then covered the Walton Gang for The Times as a young reporter. I was there in the hallway at the San Diego Sports Arena, shocked as everyone, when Coach Wooden interrupted the celebration in the locker room by abruptly announcing his retirement after his 10th and final NCAA championship.

So, as a proud alum, with the Bruins in ruins, right now I'm thinking about jumping off the social science building. Or is it now Bunche Hall, I'm too flummoxed to remember.

I hope that at home in Encino, Coach Wooden's cable went out at around 7:25 Friday night. Next time, I'll call ahead to Charter myself. Sorry, Coach, somebody must have cut a wire, service will be restored around 9:30. In Yiddish, you'd call Coach's TV blackout a mitzvah.

All I can say after watching this disorganized horror show, it has to be true that youth must be served.

In this case, served on a platter when top-ranked Kansas comes to town.

-- Ted Green

Green covered UCLA basketball for The Times back in the day. He is currently senior sports producer for KTLA Prime News.

Photo credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire