UCLA basketball: Ben Howland says he's happy to have one primary home venue
The Bruins will play 14 games at the Sports Arena and four at Honda Center in Anaheim.
"For the fans and for our players to have one venue they're going to get used to over the course of the year is definitely better than playing in four or five venues," Howland said Friday in a teleconference with reporters.
Howland said Sports Arena officials would "make a number of aesthetic changes for us that will make it more than nice." The Bruins are expected to hang their 11 national championship banners and have a UCLA logo at center court.
"What I go back to is that John Wooden's teams played there in '64 and '65 prior to the opening of Pauley Pavilion," Howland said. "Anything that is good enough for Coach is good enough for us and for me."
Asked about playing USC at a venue that is less than a mile from the Trojans' campus, Howland said he hadn't thought about it but pointed out that UCLA fans would have first dibs on tickets.
"Our fans will have the availability of being there first," Howland said.
Howland also said he was excited about playing Arizona in the Wooden Classic on Jan. 5 at Honda Center as part of the Pacific 12 Conference schedule, calling it a "marquee game" against the defending conference champion. It will be the first time that UCLA will play a Wooden Classic game against a conference opponent.
Howland said he was in no rush to hire a replacement for assistant Scott Duncan, who left the Bruins this week to become associate head coach under Larry Shyatt at Wyoming.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to have a national search and bring in the best candidate possible that will fit UCLA and fit our needs," Howland said.
Howland said junior guard Malcolm Lee continues to recover from surgery on his left knee and has exhibited improved range of motion in exercises with the Bruins' trainer.
-- Ben Bolch
Photo: UCLA Bruins head coach Ben Howland directs the team against Kansas Jayhawks in the second half at Pauley Pavillion in Westwood Dec. 6, 2009. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times