When news broke that Buzz Williams was leaving Marquette for Virginia Tech, one of the first things that came out from a national college basketball reporter was ESPN's Andy Katz offering this thought:
Former UCLA coach Ben Howland wants Marquette. He wants back in the Big East. He makes sense to continue similar path of play.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 21, 2014
Not "MU should look at the former UCLA coach," not "Howland knows Big East basketball after coaching at Pitt." Ben Howland WANTS Marquette and WANTS back in the Big East. Those are definitive statements, not random musing about basketball.
As such, it makes sense that Marquette reached out to Howland quickly, and that's exactly what Michael Hunt is reporting in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
But it's odd that the contact is being publicly acknowledged. If Ben Howland doesn't end up patrolling the MU sidelines, then this would end up indicating either A) Marquette didn't like something about Howland and his contract requirements or B) Howland didn't like something about Marquette's situation upon further investigation, or possibly both. Either side of that coin has potentially negative outcomes for both sides, so I don't know who would want to let that information get out into public view.
It's also hard to know what to make of this story relative to the idea I wrote about on Friday morning, namely reporters keep stories to themselves until the news is official so they can keep getting information from their sources. But this isn't "Howland is rumored to be connected," or something similarly vague. This is a fact: Marquette called Ben Howland. But while it is factual news, it's also an intermediate step in between "identifying candidates" and "hiring a coach."
Howland most recently coached UCLA from 2003 through 2013, winning four Pac12 regular season titles, and lead the Bruins to seven NCAA tournament appearances, including three consecutive Final Fours in 2006-2008. Marquette fans might remember Howland from MU's 2003 NCAA tournament run where the #3 seed Golden Eagles defeated Howland and his #2 seed Pitt Panthers team in the Sweet 16, 77-74.