Five years after he led UCLA to its third consecutive Final Four, Ben Howland's tenure in Westwood has come to an end.
Howland has been notified that he's been fired, two sources confirmed to Yahoo! Sports on Saturday afternoon. An official announcement from UCLA is expected to come within the next 48 hours.
"He had an amazing turnaround this season, but he knew he was going to be fired a long time ago," a source close to Howland said.
UCLA released a statement late Saturday night that read, "Contrary to multiple media reports this evening, UCLA has not fired men's basketball coach Ben Howland."
According to the sources, second-year assistant coach Korey McCray will at least temporarily remain on staff and run the program during the coaching search, a source said. McCray was instrumental in the recruitment of freshmen Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, all of whom UCLA would surely like to have remain in the program under the new coach.
Howland's firing comes on the heels of a season in which UCLA won the Pac-12 regular season title but fell 83-63 to 11th-seeded Minnesota on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. It was the fifth consecutive season the Bruins have not advanced past the NCAA tournament's opening weekend.
Hired in 2003 to bring discipline and defensive principles to a UCLA program lacking in both those areas under predecessor Steve Lavin, Howland enjoyed tremendous success during the first half of his tenure. His blue-collar, defensive-minded teams lost to national champion Florida in the 2006 national title game and the 2007 Final Four and to Memphis in the 2008 Final Four.
What led to the downturn in the program were a series of recruiting missteps and transfers.
Future all-Mountain West players Chace Stanback, Mike Moser and Drew Gordon were among the players who transferred out of the program. Howland also struggled to land the top Los Angeles players he had previously, instead resorting to taking a pair of junior college prospects and three castoffs from North Carolina and hiring the head of an Atlanta-based AAU program to try to help him bring in out-of-state talent.
[From Rivals.com: UCLA trying to retain leading recruiter Korey McCray]
The short-term fix resulted in a decorated 2012 recruiting class and a preseason top 15 ranking this season, but the Bruins still dealt with issues all season. Shabazz Muhammad was initially ruled ineligible by the NCAA before being reinstated in November, former starters Joshua Smith and Tyler Lamb transferred early in the season and second-leading scorer Adams suffered a season-ending foot injury in the Pac-12 semifinals.
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