Former UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland thanked past and present players, his coaching staff and school officials for sharing in the "pride of being a Bruin" Monday during a news conference regarding his departure after 10 seasons.
UCLA announced his firing Sunday after another early-round exit from the NCAA basketball tournament -- this time at the hands of the 11th-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Bruin's first game of the tournament.
"The pride of being a Bruin will always be part of who I am," Howland said Monday. "I have always emphasized how incredible it is to be part of this program."
Howland cleared his throat before thanking his family for their support.
"It is not easy being the family of a coach," Howland said.
Howland was asked whether he felt the coaching change was fair in the wake of UCLA's losses in the NCAA and Pac-12 tournaments. The Bruins were without starting point guard Jordan Adams, who suffered a foot injury in the Pac-12 Tournament, for the conference championship and NCAA Tournament games.
"It was a tough break for Jordan Adams and our team, but that's part of the game," Howland said. "Injuries are unfortunate. I feel very good about leaving here with a good nucleus. I want all those kids to have great success here."
Howland had a 233-107 record in Westwood, including three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-08 and four Pac-12 championships, including this season. But the Bruins were bounced out of the NCAAs Friday with an 83-63 loss to Minnesota -- which fired head coach Tubby Smith Monday -- and athletic director Dan Guerrero summoned Howland to his office on Sunday to deliver the news that he was out.
"As I looked at the entire program and where I felt we were, especially headed into next year, I felt like now was the appropriate time to make the change and get a fresh start," Guerrero said in an evening teleconference.
Howland declined Monday to discuss details of the meeting with Guerrero.
Howland had a 233-107 record as the longest-tenured coach in Westwood since John Wooden retired in 1975 after leading the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year span.
Howland, who turns 56 in May, was the eighth coach at UCLA since Wooden, with the school's only national title since then coming in 1995 under Jim Harrick. He came to UCLA in April 2003 and rebuilt a program that had fallen on hard times under Steve Lavin.
Howland won 97 games during that three-year Final Four run, more than any other coach in school history. He embraced and reveled in UCLA's history and tradition, and kept Wooden close to the program until the legendary coach died in 2010.