Former UCLA great Bill Walton has made headlines over the last 24 hours for his scathing comments about Bruins head coach Ben Howland while Walton was color commentating on the ESPN broadcast of UCLA’s game against Washington on Thursday.
Walton’s criticism of Howland during broadcasts this year has covered his substitution patterns, his offensive system and the team’s recent struggles. He said during Thursday’s game that he is not a Howland fan and blamed the coach for the program’s downturn.
On Friday, Howland downplayed the controversy, saying that Walton is just doing his job, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg.
Howland acknowledged Friday he is aware of Walton’s criticism, but insisted he is not upset by it. He suggested part of the reason for Walton’s criticism is the high standard the former Naismith Award winner holds the program to since he was part of the Bruins’ record 88-game win streak during his college career.
“He has been critical in all the games he has done of ours this year,” Howland said. “As a broadcaster and an analyst, that’s his job. It’s perfectly his right to be critical. As I’ve said in the past, to me, Bill is one of the greatest players in the history of college basketball. He holds such a special place in UCLA basketball lore. I just try to do the job to the best of my ability.”
Asked if the criticism was harder to stomach coming from Walton, Howland said curtly, “It is what it is.”
Howland’s Bruins went to three straight Final Fours from 2005-08, but have failed to make the NCAA tournament in two of the last three years.