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PITTSBURGH Howland courted by UCLA, his 'dream job'



Published: Fri, April 4, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



He later talked to his current players, but no one is saying what was discussed.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland met with UCLA officials, then with his own players. For all the talking he's doing, he's not saying if he wants to leave Pitt for what he calls his "dream job."

Neither Howland nor UCLA would say Monday whether the man who revived Pitt's program and turned it into a Top 10 power is the leading candidate for the Bruins' job.

Howland met with UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero over the weekend in Southern California, then with his Panthers players Monday afternoon, but no one was talking afterward. Howland declined to talk to reporters and his players scurried away from the meeting, some looking downcast.

"No comment," junior guard Julius Page said.

Drawing attention

Howland is believed to be the Bruins' top candidate and was the first to interview at the school, but apparently would want a significant amount of money -- about $1.1 million a year -- to make any move. He is believed to want his entire staff to go, too, though assistant Jamie Dixon is interviewing this week for some Division I jobs.

Howland already makes about $800,000 a year at Pitt, plus incentives, and the school has indicated it is willing to restructure the $5.9 million, seven-year contract it gave him only last year. Former UCLA coach Steve Lavin made $578,000.

Another complication in any possible move is UCLA's arena. Pitt went 17-0 this season in its sold-out, $96 million arena that opened in November. UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, by contrast, is one of college basketball's best known on-campus arenas but lacks the amenities and recruit-pleasing comforts of Pitt's Petersen Events Center.

Still, Howland's ties to Southern California basketball run deep. He was a UCLA fan while playing at Cerritos (Calif.) High and was an assistant coach at UC-Santa Barbara. He also interviewed once with Guerrero for the Cal-Irvine job while Howland was at Northern Arizona, but didn't get it.

Taking a look

Howland said last week, even before Pitt was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, that he hoped to be considered by UCLA.

"Given that my family roots are in California and my parents live there, I felt compelled to look at the potential opportunity," Howland said in a statement issued Monday by Pittsburgh. "I want to emphasize that I have a tremendous situation at the University of Pittsburgh. We are building something very special here and it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for me to leave."




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