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UCLA fires head coach Ben Howland

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - UCLA fired Ben Howland on Sunday night after 10 seasons as Bruins coach that included three Final Four appearances, but culminated with another early-round exit from the NCAA tournament.

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Athletic director Dan Guerrero told Howland earlier in the day that he was out.

Howland had a 233-107 record in Westwood, including three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-08 and four Pac-12 championships, including this season. The Bruins' season ended last Friday with an 83-63 loss to Minnesota in the NCAA tournament.

``I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach at UCLA for 10 years,'' he said in a statement through the university. ``The UCLA community and fans have been unbelievable to my family and I, and it's been an honor and privilege to represent this great institution. I look forward to what comes next.''

Howland had two years left on his contract that included a $2.3 million buyout.

This season opened with star recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson under investigation by the NCAA.

Muhammad missed the first three games and had to repay $1,600 in impermissible benefits after the NCAA and UCLA found that he had accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina.

Anderson was cleared to play after being investigated for potential recruiting violations.

That was just the beginning of the problems that roiled the program during the season.

Center Joshua Smith quit the team for personal reasons and guard Tyler Lamb left over a lack of playing time in the same week in November that the Bruins were upset by Cal Poly and dropped out of the Top 25.

The Bruins rallied to win the Pac-12 regular-season title and then lost to Oregon in the tournament title game playing without freshman Jordan Adams, who broke his foot in the semifinals. His absence hurt the Bruins in their second-round loss to Minnesota in the NCAAs.

A year ago, UCLA's season ended in turmoil after the Bruins went 19-14 and missed the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. Howland kicked standout Reeves Nelson off the team and an unflattering Sports Illustrated article suggested that the coach had lost control of the team.

But Howland bought himself more time with his best recruiting class since the program made those three straight Final Four appearances ending in 2008.

Muhammad, Anderson and Adams had standout seasons as freshmen, although Muhammad is expected to leave early for the NBA draft and futures of Anderson and Adams are uncertain in the wake of Howland's dismissal.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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