Mick Cronin, who has the most wins for any NCAA Division I basketball coach under 50-years old, will become the next head coach for the UCLA Bruins.
Cronin, 47, led the Cincinnati Bearcats to a berth in March Madness in nine consecutive seasons. He coached at Cincinnati for the last 13 seasons and won 296 games with the Bearcats.
Overall as a head coach, Cronin has a 365-170 record in 16 seasons. He also coached at Murray State for three seasons from 2003 to 2006. Cronin led the Racers to the March Madness in two of the three seasons he coached at Murray State.
After a tedious search that lasted 100 days, UCLA finally hired a new basketball coach after negotiations failed with TCU’s Jamie Dixon and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes.
Barnes Stays in Knoxville
UCLA wanted to hire LA-native Jamie Dixon. The TCU head coach helped turn around a school most known for their football program. However, his contract at TCU included a hefty $8 million buyout. UCLA was unable to work out a deal with Dixon and TCU, so they continued their search.
Over the weekend, Rick Barnes was rumored to become the next head coach. UCLA offered to pay him $5 million per season, but his contract with Tennessee had a $5 million buyout. It was a tough choice, but Barnes decided to stay in Knoxville.
Barnes, 65, recently won the Naismith Award for top basketball coach. Earlier this year, Barnes led Tennessee to their first #1 ranking in the AP Poll in almost 12 years. Tennessee topped the SEC this year with a 31-6 record. They were awarded a #2 seed in March Madness, but the Vols lost to #3 Purdue in the Sweet 16.
For the last three months, Rick Pitino was among the other coaches rumored to become the next head coach at UCLA. Louisville fired Pitino amidst a recruiting scandal and he had gone to Europe to revitalize his coaching career. Pitino won the Greek Cup with his new team, but he desires to return to America and coach in the collegiate ranks again. In addition to UCLA, Pitino was also on the short list for the Alabama job.
Leading the Bearcats
In his first seven seasons at Cincinnati, the Bearcats were in the Big East. He failed to get them into March Madness the first four seasons in Cincy, but he finally got the program back on track. He guided the Bearcats to the Sweet 16 in 2012 and Cincinnati basketball was back on the map.
Cincinnati moved to the American (AAC) in the 2013-14 season. They won the American twice, but finished in second place this season.
Cronin won 30 games twice with Cincinnati with 59 victories over the last three seasons. Last season, Cronin posted his best record as a coach with a 31-5 clip. Cronin leaves Cincinnati with a 296-146 record and he won 67 percent of his games. He has 365 total wins.
Although he might not have been UCLA’s first choice, Cronin is an excellent coach.
“I am incredibly humbled and honored to become the head coach at UCLA,” Cronin said in a statement. “UCLA is a very special place with a strong tradition of excellence. To be able to join such a world-class institution is truly a privilege and I can’t wait to get started in Westwood.”
UCLA fired head coach Steve Alford at the start of the season. After five and a half seasons, UCLA decided the Alford regime had run its course. Alford took the Bruins to three Sweet 16 appearances since 2003, but team had given up on Alford and got stomped by Power Conference teams.
John Wooden won ten championships for UCLA during his tenure from 1948 to 1975. In 1995 under Jim Harrick, UCLA won their only other title. The Bruins have not hoisted a banner in 24 seasons.
Cronin now joins a long list of coaches, such as Larry Brown, Steve Lavin, and Ben Howland, that tried to chase the ghosts of Westwood.
Vanderbilt recently hired former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse as their head coach. The Commodores hope Stackhouse can finally win a game in the SEC for them after they went winless in conference play this year.