Tuesday, March 18, 2003

UCLA fires Lavin



By Beth Harris
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - The e-mails, phone calls and faxes started arriving long before UCLA completed its first losing season in 55 years.

Now, athletic director Dan Guerrero can begin reviewing potential successors to Steve Lavin.

There figures to be no shortage of applicants to run one of college basketball's most storied programs. A record 11 national championship banners ring the rafters of Pauley Pavilion.

"We'd like to see UCLA basketball rise to the level of the nation's elite, and we'd like to hire a coach that can get us to that point," Guerrero said.

That didn't happen in seven years under Lavin, fired Monday after the Bruins' first losing season since 1947-48. The decision had been anticipated for months by everyone, including the 38-year-old Lavin.

"This has been a very trying year for everyone," Guerrero said.

Lavin was one of four coaches to leave their jobs Monday. Larry Shyatt resigned at Clemson, Jerry Dunn stepped down at Penn State and Curtis Hunter was fired by North Carolina A&T.

Lavin went 145-78 in seven years and took the Bruins to the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament five times in six years, a feat matched only by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Lavin's teams won at least 20 games every season except this one.

But they never reached the Final Four.

Guerrero, the first-year AD who fired football coach Bob Toledo 31/2 months ago, refused to reveal Lavin's shortcomings.

"I don't think it's necessary," he said. "I'm not here to throw stones at Steve. I don't believe he deserves it. He was head coach at UCLA and he is no longer. That's pretty tough."

UCLA went 10-19 overall and 6-12 in Pac-10 play, finishing sixth for the second straight year - its worst-ever conference showing. The Bruins upset then-No. 1 Arizona in the first round of the conference tournament, then blew an 11-point lead and lost by a point to Oregon.

"That's not acceptable," Guerrero said after a 13-minute campus news conference. "You need to be consistent throughout the year. You need to finish at the top of your conference so you can put yourself in a position to get the highest seed in the postseason tournament."

The Bruins' streak of 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances ended this season.

They had 10 losses at Pauley Pavilion, the most ever in a season, and the average attendance of 8,348 was the lowest since 1993 in the 12,819-seat arena.

At times, the Bruins were booed off their home floor, and fans wore T-shirts that said "Lose Lavin" and "Fire Lavin Immediately."

It was a shockingly negative atmosphere at a school that won 10 national titles under John Wooden in the 1960s and 1970s, and one under Jim Harrick in 1995 - when Lavin was the No. 3 assistant.

Lavin had five years remaining on his contract. He will receive a buyout of one year of his full salary of $578,000, and four years at the base salary of $153,000.

"I take the long view, and I am grateful for the experience of teaching at one of the world's great universities," Lavin said in a statement. "I will remember most the lasting friendships I've made, and I remain optimistic about the bright future of the program."

Guerrero said he planned to consult with the 92-year-old Wooden concerning Lavin's successor.

"It's quite possible that we won't have a person named until after the Final Four. There may be some candidates that are in the tournament," Guerrero said. "This is a high-level hire for us."

The Final Four ends April 7 in New Orleans.

Guerrero refused to identify potential candidates, but men such as Ben Howland of Pittsburgh, Mark Few of Gonzaga, Rick Majerus of Utah and former UCLA coach Larry Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers have been mentioned.

In other coaching moves:

Clemson

At Clemson, S.C., Shyatt resigned 24 hours after the Tigers' postseason hopes were dashed when they failed to earn a spot in the NIT.

Shyatt made his decision after meeting with athletic director Terry Don Phillips.

Clemson wound up eighth this season in the Atlantic Coast Conference after three straight last-place finishes. The Tigers went 15-13 this season, and Shyatt was 70-84 in five years at Clemson.

Penn State

At State College, Pa., Dunn resigned after a 7-21 finish this season.

He spent eight years at Penn State, going 117-121 and 45-87 in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions won just seven games each in his last two seasons.

North Carolina A&T

At Greensboro, N.C., Hunter was fired following a 1-26 season. Of the 327 schools in Division I, Tennessee State was the only other one to finish this season with just one victory.

Hunter coached at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school for four seasons, going 28-70. The Aggies, who had just one returning starter and nine new players, avoided a winless season a week before the MEAC tournament by beating Norfolk State.




COMPLETE NCAA TOURNAMENT COVERAGE
Special NCAA hoops section; Bracket contest

UC BEARCATS
It's more than a Bearcats game
No. 24 Arkansas thinking big
UC out to prove naysayers wrong
Varsity Village gets $10M from Fifth Third

XAVIER
Xavier now the hunted

KENTUCKY
No. 1 ranking increases ante for UK to win it all
Norse win on putback

NCAA TOURNAMENT
March Madness could be delayed by war
Pressure and expectations smother winning coaches
Ohio State suspends Williams
BYU's no-Sunday stance could cause NCAA shuffle
Little Mo leads underdog Bulldogs vs. Sooners
Blue Devils to stick with perimeter lineup
Gators need answers quickly
Bobby Knight's son applies for Wright State job
Spirit of Valvano lifts Whittenburg
Tigers learn of bid while on 12-hour bus ride
Asheville gets a whiff of the bigtime

OTHER COLLEGE HOOPS HEADLINES
NIT: Iowa 62, Valparaiso 60
UCLA fires Lavin