Source: UCLA to Fire Howland; School Denies Firing (UPDATED)

PHILADELPHIA — Ben Howland will be fired as the head coach of UCLA, with an official announcement coming possibly as early as Sunday, a source with direct knowledge confirmed to SNY.tv.

The news was first reported by Alex Kline of The Recruit Scoop. Citing two sources, Yahoo! Sports later reported that Howland had been informed he was being fired.

“Contrary to multiple media reports this evening, UCLA has not fired men’s basketball coach Ben Howland,” UCLA Athletics spokesman Nick Ammazzalorso said in a statement.

The SNY.tv source said UCLA was looking to retain assistant coach Korey McCray, who was instrumental in recruiting freshmen Tony Parker and Jordan Adams.

“They don’t want them to transfer,” the source said.

Freshman wing Shabazz Muhammad is expected to turn pro and will likely be a top-five pick in the NBA Draft, while freshman Kyle Anderson of St. Anthony is undecided about his future, sources told SNY.tv.

Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, Mark Gottfried, Billy Donovan and Jay Wright are on UCLA’s wish list, the source said.

Smart and VCU were eliminated Saturday by Michigan, 78-53.

Earlier Saturday, Pitt announced that coach Jamie Dixon had been extended through 2022-23. A West Hollywood, Calif., native, Dixon has long been linked to openings on the West Coast.

Howland led UCLA to three straight Final Fours from 2006-08, but has been on the hot seat for at least a year.

He was given this year to coach his vaunted freshman class, and did lead the Bruins to the Pac-12 regular-season title. But UCLA was bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Minnesota, 83-63, on Friday night.

UCLA legend Bill Walton has been a constant vocal critic of Howland, saying last month while calling a UCLA game on ESPN:

“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.”

Former UCLA great Reggie Miller told SNY.tv this month that Walton’s constant on-air criticism of Howland — which we documented in this earlier post — is “huge.”

“He’s a huge critic, but I mean that’s Bill Walton,” Miller said. “And he has a right to say that, a guy that’s been so big for the UCLA program. He’ll understand what it takes. I don’t know their relationship, but it’s huge when a Bill Walton comes out with those types of comments.”

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