Friday, September 26, 2008


Russell is more than ready to clock in & get paid next season...

Some favorite vids on the man, first, montage style...

Now, in real-game time style ...

And finally, who could ever forget what sorts of hair-o-technics Russell was doing during his last season, a.k.a. "The Flaming Mohawks"?

Thanks for spending 2 years of your life with the UCLA Bruin family, Russell!!! Good luck in the NBA!!!

The Steve Lavin - Exercise Bike Scandal

t'was March 9, 2003


Title Annotation: Sports
Article Type: Statistical Data Included
Date: Mar 9, 2003
Words: 2017
Publication: Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Byline: Billy Witz Staff Writer

It started with whispers. Then there was snickering. Soon the word spread around the summer recruiting circuit, where gossip and you-gotta-hear-this stories fly through the air like basketballs.

At Highline Community College in suburban Seattle last July, about 30 college coaches and scouts were seated along the baseline of two courts, keeping their eyes on some of the best players in the Northwest.

Steve Lavin was there to keep an eye on a top-flight point guard. While other coaches were taking notes or looking at rosters to match a name with a face, Lavin was off in the corner of the circular gym pumping away furiously on an exercise bike.

Fans, recognizing him in the UCLA cap and shirt, stopped to chat, but nothing could slow him down, not even the giggling of his peers. Soon, sweat was pouring down his face and soaking through his shirt.

``I'm watching the games,'' said one scout, ``and I hear other guys saying, `Is he going to the airport like that? Is he going to take a shower?' I turned around to see what everybody was talking about, and I couldn't believe it.

``It was so unprofessional. I'm sure in a court of law he would say he was watching the games and that may true, but can you imagine Roy Williams, Lute Olson or Mike Montgomery getting on an exercise bike?''

To many in the coaching industry, it is the quintessential Lavin story.

It, as well as anything, explains why UCLA's 38-year-old head coach - whose teams had won 20 games in each of his six seasons prior to this one and had reached the Sweet Sixteen in five of those years - will be fired as soon as today.

This season, the school's worst since World War II, is less an aberration than a manifestation of all that is wrong.

``It's tough for me to see a team that talented and for someone to give up on it the way he has,'' said former UCLA star Baron Davis, Lavin's star recruit who now plays for the New Orleans Hornets. ``The coaching staff has given up on the players and the players have given up on the coaching staff. It's sad to watch, but I could see it coming.''

Hard to pin down

The most successful coaches have a philosophical core. Roy Williams believes in the fast break. Rick Pitino in fullcourt pressure defense. Bob Knight in motion offense. Jim Boeheim in the matchup zone.

After seven seasons, what is the book on Steve Lavin?

Lavin, who declined to be interviewed for this story, debuted as a protege of Purdue coach Gene Keady, with whom he spent three seasons learning about hard-nosed, man-to-man defense. He was credited with orchestrating UCLA's national-championship defense in 1995.

In his first season, Lavin scrapped Jim Harrick's offense for the free-form motion, giving his veterans free reign. Three years later, he turned to the structured double high-post. The year after that, the Bruins turned to pressing and trapping. Last season, the offense reverted back to the motion. The defenses seem to alternate from month to month.

The only thing all of these changes have in common is that they occurred in the middle of the season.

Pete Newell, the Hall of Fame coach and old family friend whom Lavin considers his greatest basketball influence, believes that, ultimately, Lavin's undoing is rooted in his decision not to surround himself with a veteran staff.

Three of the five assistants who worked under him are friends from college or high school. The others had scant coaching experience.

``You have to really take an honest look at yourself in what your strengths and weaknesses are,'' Newell said. ``Some of us are motivators and not X's and O's guys. Some are teachers, but not really strong in game planning and assessing players. Some are strong in (recruiting).

``As coaches, we've got to get assistants to reinforce us where we're weak. Steve has shown great leadership by bringing his teams back from the ashes - that's a real strength. What he needs is a real kick-(expletive) guy and an older guy who could shape him into a better X and O guy, or if he's not good on defense, a good defense guy. In these areas there was just no growth.''

With former and current players, the overriding belief is that they don't get the type of instruction from their head coach - in games or in practice - that a program like UCLA warrants.

``He's not an X's and O's coach - he never has been since I met him,'' said Travis Reed, who played two years for Lavin before transferring to Long Beach State. [Travis is one astute cat -- atb]

``When a team has the same amount of talent as you, it comes down to X's and O's, and we never had an X-and-O game. You can get away with it against Oregon State, Washington State and SC, or in a one-game situation, but teams like Arizona and Stanford that are just as talented, you have to beat them with execution down the stretch.''

Asked what role his two years at UCLA played in his development into a two-time NBA All-Star, the Hornets' Davis didn't hesitate.

``None at all,'' he said. ``Playing college basketball, playing good competition and being in college was the best experience of my life. But as far as being developed as a young point guard into the NBA, I wasn't ready.
``When I left (in 1999) I was angry - why didn't Lav do this or do that? But I know now - he just wasn't ready.''

Learning on the fly

On Nov. 6, 1996, Lavin - then Harrick's top assistant and only a year removed from a $16,000 annual salary - drove to Palos Verdes with fellow assistant Jim Saia and another friend to meet Newell for lunch.

Lavin and Saia, high school and college teammates, talked that day about their uncertain futures. They knew Harrick was under scrutiny and figured they soon could be looking for work.

Lavin, who tried unsuccessfully to interview for the Long Beach State head-coaching job that spring, wondered whether he might have a shot at Whittier College.

By day's end, he was the head coach of one of college basketball's most storied programs.

Though his inexperience showed, Lavin quickly won admirers for his enthusiasm and willingness to stand up to his players, who viewed him not as their coach but as ``Lav.''

He benched J.R. Henderson, kicked Toby Bailey out of practice, and the taunting and posing that had become a trademark of Harrick's teams all but vanished.
But since Lavin became head coach, only five of 18 players who entered the program on scholarship and have completed their eligibility have graduated, including one who did so at another school.

Two players missed the fall quarter because they were academically ineligible. Another - a starter on this year's team - was held out of practice midway through this season as administrators determined whether he was academically eligible.

UCLA once had a tradition of players who were just as good in the classroom as they were on the court, producing 16 Academic All-Americans from 1967 through 1980. That includes stars such as Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Marques Johnson, Mike Warren, Sidney Wicks and Kiki Vandeweghe.

In Lavin's tenure, the Bruins have had just one player make the Pacific-10 Conference All-Academic team - former walk-on Bob Myers.

Increasingly, Lavin is recruiting and the school is admitting players who on paper are academic risks. Current players Michael Fey, Dijon Thompson and Cedric Bozeman each needed more than one attempt to get the minimum NCAA qualifying test score. Evan Burns and Schea Cotton are among two high-profile recruits Lavin signed who didn't qualify academically.

Many of the players - from those who have struggled, such as Andre Patterson, to those who have walked away with their degrees, such as Billy Knight - say the coaching staff is not to blame. Indeed, two years ago Lavin benched two players for the start of an NCAA Tournament game because they skipped out on study hall.

Yet, now-retired athletic director Pete Dalis became frustrated by Lavin's unwillingness to get tough with players who slacked in the classroom. There were so many memos delivered to Lavin on the subject that some on the basketball staff believed administrators were building a paper trail.

``If they could use it to fire Steve they would,'' one source said. ``It's a major issue with the powers that be.''

And if the players weren't held to certain standards in the classroom, then how would they respond to others?

When Rico Hines hit Matt Barnes over the head with a metal stool three years ago, he was suspended for two games - and the suspension was eventually lifted. Lavin seemed angry only that the incident became public.

``I'm sure everybody on the team liked Lavin as a person, but they might not respect him as a coach,'' Reed said.

``Lavin was a young coach, so he didn't have the prestige of Lute Olson, who got respect when he walked in the room. He had to earn the players' respect, and there was a lot of stuff where he shouldn't have let things go. A guy would miss practice but still play in the game - things like that. Maybe it's small stuff, but it's stuff that goes a long way.''

Recruiting realities

Small stuff goes a long way in recruiting as well.

In 1999, Lavin skipped out early on one of the national showcases of the recruiting season to go to the major-league All-Star Game in Boston.

Last year, an assistant had to fend off questions from the father of Marcus Williams - who eventually signed with Connecticut - asking why, if the Bruins liked his son so much, did Lavin never watch him play?

The program has been hit with three minor NCAA violations under Lavin, including the bizarre incident in which former Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone called a recruit's home.

If Lavin hasn't become a worse coach in seven years, recruiting mistakes have added up to where the talent no longer is the great trump card. The case of Cedric Bozeman is a prime example.

A prep All-American, Bozeman was so highly thought of by Lavin as a point guard - a position he rarely played in high school - that the only other player Lavin signed at that position was Ryan Walcott, who had no other offers and the coaches hadn't evaluated in person.

As Bozeman has struggled the past two years, there have been few options.
Next year's roster will be littered with players who either had scholarship offers from lower-level schools or not at all: Walcott, Josiah Johnson, Jon Crispin, Matt McKinney, Brian Morrison and Ryan Hollins.

``Steve is a phenomenal recruiter but a terrible evaluator,'' one scout said. ``If he had somebody who could point him at a guy and say, `Go get him,' he'd be fine. But he doesn't have anybody that can do that. That's why they end up with a roster full of guys who are either McDonald's All-Americans or can't play.''

This, those in the recruiting business say, is why UCLA is in the fix it is.

And why, come Monday, Lavin is expected to become the seventh coach to depart UCLA since John Wooden retired 28 seasons ago.

The good --Five Sweet 16 appearances in six seasons, more than any other school except Duke
--Defeated top-ranked teams three consecutive seasons: Kansas in 2002, Stanford in 2001 and Stanford in 2000

The bad
--Twelve losses by 24 points or more, including school-record 48-point defeat at Stanford
--Among the losses: Cal State Northridge, Pepperdine, Ball State, Detroit-Mercy, Colorado State, Northern Arizona, San Diego

Time to unleash the Top Dogs of 2008-09!!!

Photo courtesy of Erkki Corpuz via The Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA Finalizes 2008-09 Men's Basketball Schedule

Bruins to make 29 television appearances on five different networks.

Sept. 17, 2008

LOS ANGELES - The UCLA Athletic Department has finalized its men's basketball schedule for 2008-09, which is highlighted by 29 televised games on five different networks, including the possibility of two more games to be televised.

The Bruins will make 15 appearances as part of the Pacific-10 Conference's television package; nine national telecasts on Fox Sports Net, three on CBS, two on ESPN and one on ABC. UCLA has two additional opportunities for exposure when wildcard selections will be announced on Feb. 20, 2009.

In addition to the Pac-10's FSN package, eight more games will be televised locally as part of the Bruins' package on FSN Prime Ticket and FSN West in Los Angeles.

Additionally, the Bruins have a possibility of making four appearances on the ESPN family of networks in conjunction with the 2K Sports Classic on Nov. 12-13 and Nov. 20-21 (ESPN2 or ESPNU) and will make three appearances on ESPN during the regular season [at Texas on Dec. 4, at Arizona State on Feb. 12, and at California on Feb 28].

Like last season, KCAL will again be televising the Wooden Classic contest against DePaul in Honda Center on Dec. 13.

UCLA, the three-time defending regular season Pac-10 champion, opens defense of its conference crown in early January at Oregon State (Jan. 2). The Bruins will begin defense of their Pac-10 Tournament crown at the 2009 Pac-10 Tournament, which features all 10 teams. It will once again be held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles (March 11-14).

While all but one game time has been set, the schedule is tentative and subject to change.


Mon., Nov. 3, Cal Baptist (Exhibition),, 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 7, Biola (Exhibition),, 7:30 p.m.
Wed., Nov. 12, 2K Sports Classic First Round, ESPNU, 4:15/7:00 p.m.
Thu., Nov. 13, 2K Sports Classic Second Round, ESPNU, 5:15/8:00 p.m.
Thu., Nov. 20, 2K Sports Classic Semifinals, ESPN2, @ Madison Square Garden, 4:00/6:20 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 21, 2K Sports Classic Final, ESPN2, @ Madison Square Garden, 2:00/4:30 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 29, Florida International, FSNPT, 4:30 p.m.
Thu., Dec. 4, @Texas (Pac-10/Big 12 Series), ESPN, 7:00 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 7, Cal State Northridge, FSNPT, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 13, DePaul @ Wooden Classic, KCAL, 4:00 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 17, Loyola Marymount, FSNPT, 8:00 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 20, Mercer, FSNW, 7:30 p.m.
Tue., Dec. 23, Wyoming, FSNPT, 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 28, Louisiana Tech, FSNPT, Noon
Fri., Jan. 2, @ Oregon State, FSN/FSNPT, 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 4, @ Oregon, FSN/FSNPT, 12:30 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 11, @ USC, FSN/FSNPT, 7:30 p.m.
Thu., Jan. 15, Arizona, FSN/FSNPT, 8:00 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 17, Arizona State, CBS, 12:45 p.m.
Thu., Jan. 22, @ Washington State, FSN/FSNPT, 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 24, @ Washington, FSN/FSNPT, 1:00 p.m.
Thu., Jan. 29, California, FSN/FSNW, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 31, Stanford, ABC, 12:30 p.m.
Wed., Feb. 4, USC, FSNPT, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 7, Notre Dame, CBS, 10:00 a.m.
Thu., Feb. 12, @ Arizona State, ESPN, 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 14, @ Arizona, CBS, 10:00 a.m.
Thu., Feb. 19, Washington, FSN/FSNW, 8:00 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 21, Washington State, FSN/FSNPT, Noon
Thu., Feb. 26, @ Stanford, FSNPT, 7:00 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 28, @ California, ESPN, 6:00 p.m.
Thu., Mar. 5, Oregon State, WC 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Mar. 7, Oregon, WC, TBD
Mar. 11-14, Pac-10 Tournament @ Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Mar. 19-22, NCAA First and Second Round
Mar. 26-29, NCAA Regional
Apr. 4 & 6, NCAA Final Four

All times Pacific.
All games broadcast on the UCLA/ISP Radio Network (AM 570 KLAC in Los Angeles) and nationally on Sirius Satellite Radio.
FSN/FSNW - live in Los Angeles on FSN West as part of Pac-10 national package. FSN/FSNPT - live in Los Angeles on FSN Prime Ticket as part of Pac-10 national package.
FSNW - live in Los Angeles on FSN West.
FSNPT - live in Los Angeles on FSN Prime Ticket.
WC - Wildcard selections to be chosen 12 days before the date of the contest.
Official announcement at

For more info on incoming/potential incoming UCLA hoopsters, check out The Bruin Basketball Report

Then for 24/7 UCLA HOOPS talk, go to

Why mess with the rest? Just go with the best! Visit BBR, BRUINVILLE.COM and BZ BASKETBALL RIGHT NOW!!!