The chatter surrounding Jamie Dixon and UCLA seems to be heating up.
Dixon was mentioned by the Los Angeles Times Monday as one of the top two candidates for the Bruins head coaching job, along with Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. Cronin could be a candidate for Virginia Tech, while Cincinnati reportedly will make an effort to keep him. As for Dixon, he didn’t issue a denial when he addressed the reports on Monday, and he’s free now that TCU lost in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday night.
That led Go Joe Bruin to report that Dixon is nearing a deal with UCLA.
Similarly, Bay Area News’ Jon Wilner predicted Dixon would be named the Bruins’ head coach by Friday.
If this is indeed the direction they are going, I would hope it comes only after they were outright turned down by Tony Bennett and Chris Beard, whose teams are in the Final Four.
Dixon is not an exciting name, and some may bristle over his connections to previous Bruins coach Ben Howland, under whom he coached at Pitt and Northern Arizona. However, he won at Pitt and has done a pretty nice job of improving things at TCU. Though he’s unlikely to have the kind of success at UCLA that Howland did, he should be able to improve and stabilize the program if hired, which is necessary.
UCLA appears to be closer to concluding its search for a new head basketball coach.
The Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch reported on Monday that the Bruins have narrowed their focus to Jamie Dixon and Mick Cronin for the coaching job. Cronin is currently the coach at Cincinnati, while Dixon is at TCU.
The Bruins apparently view Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett, Texas coach Shaka Smart, and former Suns coach Earl Watson as backup candidates. They reportedly want to have a coach in place next week before candidates start getting hired for vacancies.
John Calipari apparently actually met with UCLA and was offered a 6-year, $45 million contract, but he may have just used that as leverage to sign a lifetime deal with Kentucky. Bolch says Calipari was the only big-name coach who granted the Bruins a meeting.
By floating this information out there now, UCLA seems to be trying to manage the expectations for their fan base over the impending hire. Just over the weekend, I wrote that the Bruins were conspicuously quiet about their search and said they should be going after Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Texas Tech’s Chris Beard.
Though we cannot completely dismiss the possibility of Beard or Bennett — the Times says some coaches wanted to wait until after the Final Four before talking about the job — the report about Dixon or Cronin seems designed to let UCLA fans know they’re likely getting a B-list candidate.
Cronin, 47, has gone 296-147 over 13 seasons at Cincinnati. He had more success once the program moved to the weaker AAC compared to the Big East. A concern with him is that he’s never advanced beyond the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. I have my doubts about his ability to accomplish more with the program than Steve Alford did; they seem to be of similar ability. He also seems like he wouldn’t have too favorable handling with the media.
Jamie Dixon took over his alma mater, TCU, which had slipped badly under its previous coach. He turned them into an immediate winner and has put together three straight winning seasons. Prior to that, he took over the Pitt program when Ben Howland left for the UCLA job and took the program to the Tournament in 11 of 13 seasons. He had more middling levels of success when Pitt moved to the more difficult ACC compared to when they were in the Big East and mostly dominant.
Between the two, Dixon is a better option to me as he’s more accomplished, has enjoyed more postseason success, and has competed in more difficult conferences consistently.
Bennett or Beard would be miles ahead of either candidate though, and that’s who the Bruins should really be focusing on.
The chatter surrounding UCLA’s search for a new head basketball coach has been oddly quiet, though we now know of at least one candidate to interview for the job.
Former Bruin Earl Watson interviewed for the job, according to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz. Schultz says that Watson would include former UCLA head coach Larry Brown as an assistant on his coach staff.
Watson, 39, played at UCLA from 1997-2001 and went on to enjoy a 13-season NBA career. He went into coaching immediately after retiring and quickly climbed up the ranks in Phoenix, where he became an interim head coach after Jeff Hornacek was fired in 2016. Watson went 33-85 in parts of three seasons and was fired after an 0-3 start to the 2017-2018 season.
Watson was linked to the UCLA job two years ago when Steve Alford was still the coach. He has been a popular candidate among the program’s former players.
Though Watson’s popularity among the alumni is a nice selling point, UCLA needs a more experienced and proven head coach. They really should be targeting Chris Beard and Tony Bennett for the job.
The rumors about John Calipari suggest the Bruins are aiming high.
Murry Bartow does not seem to believe the full-time UCLA head coaching job is for him.
UCLA’s season likely came to a close after a loss to Arizona State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday. The Bruins finish the season a pathetic 17-16 (as long as they do not accept an invitation to a postseason tournament as expected).
After the game, Bartow said multiple times that he does not want the interim tag removed, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Joey Kaufman.
The Bruins went 10-10 under Bartow, which is actually worse than the 7-6 record under Steve Alford, who was fired this season.
Bartow declining interest in the full-time job is probably a reflection of him knowing he’s not a candidate for the position. The Bruins are expected to pursue a new coach in what has been an extremely quiet search so far.
Don’t look now, but the UCLA Bruins are on a roll since firing Steve Alford.
UCLA won their third game in a row since Alford’s firing, beating Oregon 87-84 in overtime on Thursday night in Eugene. What’s most impressive is the fashion in which they did it.
UCLA was down 65-48 with under 7 minutes to go, and they were down 74-65 with 48.5 seconds left. Despite the big deficits with little time left, they still rallied to tie the game and then win it in the extra period.
After the game, junior guard Prince Ali exclaimed that UCLA committed “highway robbery” with the comeback win.
The Bruins certainly stole that one.
Ali was 7/10 in the game, including 4/7 on threes for 22 points to lead the Bruins. He scored four points in overtime.
Despite their non-conference woes, the Bruins have the talent to compete for the Pac-12 title in the weakened conference this season.
Luke Walton may have a fallback nearby in the event that he is shown the door by the Los Angeles Lakers.
In a piece for Forbes that was published on Tuesday, basketball insider Adam Zagoria quoted a UCLA source who listed Walton’s name among the potential candidates for the team’s head coaching job.
One UCLA source threw out a bunch of names, including Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley, TCU’s Jamie Dixon, Texas Tech’s Chris Beard and even potentially Lakers coach Luke Walton.
A second source was also quoted as saying that UCLA is going through “all the available candidates, some coaches that are coaching, some that aren’t.”
Walton, who is only 38, has brought the Lakers to a 22-19 record this season, despite not having LeBron James for the last seven games and counting due to a groin injury. However, Walton has still gone just 83-122 (.405) in three seasons as Lakers head coach and has yet to make a playoff appearance.
Interestingly enough, Walton has experience in the college ranks (he began his coaching career as an assistant for the University of Memphis in 2011) and in the Pac-12 in particular, having played for four years at Arizona. His father Bill is obviously one of the most beloved players in UCLA history as well and continues to call games for the school on ESPN. What’s more is that Walton, a former Golden State Warriors assistant, worked there with GM Bob Myers, a UCLA alum who is aiding the school in their head coaching search.
The Lakers’ contingent does expect Walton to finish the year as their coach, but it certainly couldn’t hurt for the Bruins to do their due diligence here.
Rumors have been circulating that UCLA may have interest in hiring Rick Pitino, but you might be able to pump the breaks on that talk.
College basketball reporter Adam Zagoria wrote in a piece for Forbes that prominent UCLA boosters Casey Wasserman and John Branca were backing Pitino as their No. 1 choice to replace Steve Alford. That’s significant because Wasserman has tremendous influence at the school.
Wasserman donated money to created The Wasserman Football Center on UCLA’s campus. He was also the primary driver behind the school securing Chip Kelly as football coach. If Wasserman wants something, there’s a good chance he can make it happen.
However, Bruins Nation reported on Saturday that Wasserman is not backing Pitino.
Pitino comes with a host of problems, as he was fired by Louisville amid an investigation into the school potentially paying for a recruit. That came after the school had already been disciplined for their sex parties.
Pitino, 66, is currently coaching a well known Greek team in the EuroLeague.
The report never made much sense, especially since another candidate mentioned for the job is one of his management group’s clients.
UCLA has gone 2-0 since firing Alford.
As one of the school’s most prominent current NBA players, one would expect Lonzo Ball to have some opinions on UCLA’s coaching search, and that is the case.
Ball believes that former UCLA guard and ex-Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson should be the school’s next permanent coach, citing his ties to the school and NBA experience.
Watson spent parts of three seasons as Phoenix coach, going 33-85. While he does have strong ties to the school, it might not be the track record of success that the fans might be seeking.
Watson was actually linked to the UCLA job about a year and a half ago when he was still coaching the Suns. There are no indications that he’s yet a candidate this time around, even though Ball wants him to be.
As they officially begin the search for Steve Alford’s replacement as head coach, the UCLA Bruins will be getting help from one prominent NBA figure.
In their press release on Monday announcing Alford’s dismissal after six seasons at the helm, the school wrote that Golden State Warriors general manager and president of basketball operations Bob Myers will be among those assisting athletic director Dan Guerrero in the search for a new coach.
The 43-year-old Myers, who has won three championships and two Executive of the Year Awards in the nearly seven years that he has been in charge of the Warriors, is a UCLA alum. He played for four years on the school’s basketball team from 1993 to 1997, including winning the NCAA title with them in 1995.
The Bruins already seem to be eyeing some big targets for the position, and Myers, a former agent who hired one of the NBA’s top head coaches in Steve Kerr, has just the experience to help his alma mater make the right hire.
UCLA finally decided to part ways with men’s basketball coach Steve Alford on Sunday following a disappointing run with the program, and the timing may not be a coincidence.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that UCLA has been eyeing former Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg as a potential replacement for Alford.
Coaches who are highly sought after at the collegiate level typically are not available in the middle of a season, but it just so happens that Hoiberg was fired by the Bulls earlier this month. While reports have indicated he still wants to coach in the NBA, he would probably have his pick of several top jobs if he chose to return to college.
Hoiberg made a name for himself with the tremendous success he enjoyed at Iowa State, where he had an overall record of 115-56 and led the Cyclones to the NCAA Tournament four years in a row. He’s just 46 and could probably find another opportunity in the NBA, but the state that he left the Bulls in may not help his resume.
UCLA is under enormous pressure to make the right hire with its next basketball coach, and Hoiberg would undoubtedly be a popular choice. Whether he’s interested or not remains to be seen.