While watching the fourth quarter of the Hawks/Bucks closeout Game 7 on ABC, I couldn’t help but be pleased when I heard the national broadcast team of Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown speak so glowingly about the UCLA basketball program. Bucks second year forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had tipped a ball out of bounds while going for an offensive rebound when Tirico started talking about him and the UCLA program. After the ensuing Hawks’ offensive possession, Mbah a Moute grabbed the defensive rebound, ran the floor, and was fouled going up for a layup. While he was at the free throw line, Tirico took the time to continue his praise of UCLA and the volume of quality NBA players they’ve produced recently under coach Ben Howland. Former coach and current analyst Hubie Brown also joined in on the action. Here’s how their exchange went:
Tirico: “Luc Richard Mbah a Moute out of UCLA. So many good players. Many people [are] becoming more aware of Russell Westbrook with Oklahoma City’s run. A lot of good UCLA players. Mbah a Moute is the defensive specialist as he was with Ben Howland at UCLA. He fits right into Scott Skiles’ style.
I talked about Mbah a Moute and his UCLA days and Russell Westbrook, you have [Darren] Collison the rookie for New Orleans, Arron Afflalo, who did a very nice job after his couple years in Detroit. He’s moved on and found an even more comfortable spot. Kevin Love, obviously for Minnesota. That UCLA program turned out some darn good players under Ben Howland. Obviously Trevor Ariza was at the back end of the continuation of the great run, but their defensive mindset has helped those guys come right in.”
Hubie: “Well absolutely. Ben Howland when he was at Northern Arizona then Pitt and now out at UCLA, excellent defensive coach. His guys are going to be working, they’re going to be professional people, and they’re going to adhere to whatever you’re selling offensively and defensively.”
Like I said, that’s some pretty glowing praise from Tirico and Brown, and it’s deserved. Of course, all this talk about the volume of quality NBA players UCLA has produced is nothing new to Bruins fans. We’re sitting here wondering how those stacked teams never won a title. The answer is pretty simple — in the first two of three straight Final Four appearances, the Bruins lost to a bigger, more talented Florida team. There’s no shame in losing to that Gators team which featured two of the better big men in the NBA, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. The Bruins had no answer for those two monsters either year. The Kevin Love year where they lost to Derrick Rose’s Memphis squad is the one many fans feel slipped away. I still refuse to believe that Memphis team was better than UCLA that year. Love, Westbrook, Collison, Mbah a Moute — the Bruins were stacked. Rose lit UCLA up but Howland should have had Westbrook or Mbah a Moute guarding him, not Collison. We switched too late and it was over by then. What could have been …
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