Bill Walton is not a Ben Howland fan.
The UCLA legend said as much Thursday during ESPN’s telecast of UCLA’s dramatic 59-57 win over Washington on Larry Drew II’s fallaway jumper at the buzzer.
Prior to Drew’s theatrical game-winner that improved Howland and UCLA to 17-6, 7-3 in the Pac-12, Walton effectively called for the coach’s tenure to come to an end.
“I’m not in charge,” Walton said when asked if Howland’s time had run out in Westwood. “If I were, things would be different.”
Asked directly by ESPN play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch if he was a Howland fan, Walton said, “No.”
The conversation began with Walton saying UCLA had “the smallest footprint of any of the UC campuses” and then repeatedly making fun of the crowd size at Pauley Pavilion .
“They should just announce that everybody can come down closer and fill in the empty seats,” Walton cracked about the sparse audience.
Pasch: “You’ve criticized the attendance now five times. Give me a solution. How do you fix it?”
Walton: “Play better basketball.”
Pasch: “OK, well, that’s obvious. How do you play better basketball?”
Walton: “Better style.”
Pasch: “Alright, so, is that the coach? Is that the players?”
Walton: “It’s the coach.
Pasch: “So you’re not a Ben Howland fan?”
Pasch: ”Well, he went to three straight Final Fours. He hasn’t made the Tournament the last three years. Has his time run out here in Westwood?
Walton: “I’m not in charge. If I were, things would be different.”
Later, Pasch asked, “What the next best option there for UCLA?
Walton: “Do they look like they’re having a good time? Are they playing great basketball? Are they selling tickets. Is this an atmosphere that you would say, ‘Yeah.’”
Walton dead-panned of the fans and players: “This looks like people are getting ready to go to the dentist.”
Armed with star freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Tony Parker, Howland entered the year on the hot seat knowing that he had to take this team deep into March to keep his job.
Now Walton has turned up the flame even more.