It is a blue-blood program from an overrated basketball conference that hasn’t won an NCAA title in way more than a decade.
The school itself is a jewel, located near a major U.S. city that plays football in one of college’s most hallowed and iconic venues.
The basketball program, however, for all the news it generates, hasn’t won an NCAA title this century even though people talk with reverence about its past players, shady boosters and powerful athletic director.
Oh yeah, but also Michigan.
But here’s the interesting part about perception being reality.
UCLA, in a recent search for a basketball coach, was labeled by many a program no longer deserving of its historic reputation.
One headline asked “How did the UCLA basketball job became so radioactive?”
A writer for USA Today opined “even Hollywood’s best cosmetic surgeons wouldn’t be able to erase the marks of stress that have formed over UCLA’s last few decades.”
Wow, how novel, a plastic surgery joke about Los Angeles.
The perception, though, was much different Monday with news that John Beilein was leaving Michigan to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel, one of THE best writers working today, quickly opined that Michigan was an elite job that would command the best and brightest.
Wetzel tweeted: “Michigan job is now open. It is one of the most desirable in all of basketball. Rare combination of being capable of winning a national title (proximity to talent, resources) with reasonable fan expectations and moderate pressure (due to focus on football). UofM should get a star.”
I’m not saying Dan is wrong, but let’s ask ourselves how--more importantly why--is Michigan a better basketball gig than UCLA?
Let’s line these programs up:
UCLA has won 11 national titles, the last in 1995.
Michigan has captured one NCAA title…in 1989.
So UCLA has won more titles AND more recently...let's move on.
The FAB FIVE team that revolutionized college basketball fashion, but not actual college basketball, did NOT win the title.
The Big Ten hasn’t won an NCAA title since 2000 (Michigan State), while the Pac 12 hasn’t won since Arizona in 1997.
So why, again, is Michigan an elite job while UCLA is a reclamation project?
Well, they argue, Michigan basketball has been better lately, which is only marginally true if you consider UCLA went to three straight Final Fours in 2006, 07 and 08. In 2017, UCLA was a No. 3 seed with a record of 29-4.
UCLA, through poor public relations, weak leadership and incomprehensible paranoia, has allowed its legacy narrative to be hijacked by perception and the national media.
Let’s be clear: the only reason Michigan is considered a great job is because it just lost a great coach.
Beilein’s loss to the NBA is huge blow for college basketball. Even though he fell short of winning it all at Michigan, I thought he was college basketball’s best combination of great coach\honest broker in a cesspool of phonies and corruption.
We’ll find out, but it is quite possible that Michigan basketball WAS John Beilein.
The idea that Michigan is a better job than UCLA, however, is laughable.
The only thing holding UCLA back since Jim Harrick was failing to hire a coach as good as John Beilein.
All other arguments are suspect, lazy and mostly hatched from out-of-town.
UCLA can still attract, with one net sweep, the top talent in the nation. The Bruins did it two years ago when it had Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf.
Ben Howland was the closest UCLA came to getting it right. He led UCLA as far as the NCAA title game—as close as Beilein got at Michigan.
The rail about UCLA basketball fans not caring enough to fill Pauley Pavilion is also as mailed-in as a plastic surgery joke.
UCLA fans will show up for good basketball, but not crappy basketball. They don’t expect John Wooden again but they’d also prefer something better than Jed Clampett rolling into Beverly Hills after an black-gold oil strike.
Sorry if Bruin fans didn’t fight traffic (Michigan people couldn’t even imagine) to roll over for an Indiana "Music Man" who played for Bob Knight, a sweetheart of a human who went out of his way to discredit Wooden at the expense of Clair Bee and Pete Newell.
If UCLA should have somehow now fallen into a great coach, in Mick Cronin, the Bruins will win a national title sooner than Michigan does if it doesn’t hire someone as good as Beilein.
Remember, UCLA still leads in titles, 11 to 1, while the FAB FIVE still leads in long shorts.
UCLA has only itself to blame for botched coaching searches with a paranoia that only could have come with smoking half of Cheech & Chong's home stash.
UCLA, through its own bureaucratic incompetence, inbreeding, tightwad polices and search committee misfires, has surely scared off coaches who could have long ago won NCAA title No. 12 and 13.
Since Wooden, there has never been anything wrong with UCLA basketball that UCLA hasn't, on its own, unnecessarily screwed up.
But all streaks have to end.