Ben Howland has 19 years of head coaching experience and is most known for his ten years at UCLA, where he helped guide the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours.
Howland began his head coaching career in 1994 when he took over North Arizona of the Big Sky Conference. During his first two seasons he won a total of 16 games and finished 7th in the conference, but in seasons 3-5 he won 21 games each year, twice finishing first in the conference and another finishing second. In his fourth season, his team won the Big Sky Conference Tournament and earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. In the game they lost to Cincinnati by just 3 points. It was the school's first NCAA Tournament appearance and their only other came the year after Howland left for Pittsburgh.
When Howland came to Pittsburgh in 1999, the basketball program had been to just one N.I.T. over the past five seasons and had not made the NCAA Tournament since 1993. The team only won 13 games during his first season, but by year two they finished 5th in the Big East and made it to the second round of the N.I.T. Howland's career took off after this season as he guided Pittsburgh to a 13-3 Big East record and won the Big East Regular Season Championship as well as a Sweet Sixteen appearance. For his efforts, he won the Naismith College Coach of the Year. He did even one better the following season as in addition to duplicating those results, the Panthers also won the Big East Tournament. Howland was a hot name and it was time for him to move to Westwood to take over the reins at UCLA, which had gone 10-19 (6-12) in the year prior to Howland's arrival.
UCLA struggled in year one under Howland, but that's to be expected in any rebuilding job. By year two, the Bruins were back in the NCAA Tournament and finished 3rd in the Pac-10. The next year was the first of his remarkable stretch of three consecutive Final Fours and Pac-10 Regular Season Championships. During his ten-year tenure at UCLA he made 7 NCAA Tournaments, 3 Final Fours and won 4 Pac-10/12 Regular Season Championships. He coaches a multitude of NBA players including Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, and Jrue Holiday. Howland was fired from UCLA after the 2012-2013 season, following a loss in the "second round" of the NCAA Tournament.
Some question Howland's character and specifically reference a Sports Illustrated piece from 2012. I suppose I just interpret that piece differently than those. I view his demands of room temperature and the temperature of his water as just being detail-oriented and meticulous, which is a character trait of a lot of great leaders. It also appeared that he took appropriate measures to curtail the problems on his team. After hearing rumors that his team was going to rent a Party Bus on New Years Eve when they had practice the next morning, Howland mandated a bed check. That sounds like good management to me. The piece also discusses several of the 'Baby Bruins' class who did not take their bodies and practice seriously enough and as a result they received limited playing time. Again, an appropriate response to lack of effort. By Howland's own admission he could have handled the Reeves Nelson situation better and I believe he learned from that situation and if another situation like that arises he will handle is much better.
Is Howland a perfect coach? No, but he would be an outstanding choice for Wake Forest. We're entering an ACC next year that will include coaches such as Coach K, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, and Jim Boeheim. All of those coaches have won at least one national title and have been to multiple Final Fours. Howland hasn't won a national title, but he can say that he's made it to three consecutive Final Fours, coached at a top-5 program and has coached 14 players who have gone on to play in the NBA. In my opinion, Wake Forest is at a stage where we need an established coach like Howland to guide our program. When you combine Howland's pedigree with Wake Forest's tradition, it just makes too much sense not to happen. Wake Forest fans will embrace this coach and the Joel is going to be rocking again.