After a very interesting coaching search to say the least that had the likes of John Calipari mentioned after the firing of Steve Alford mid-season, UCLA has finally found a new head coach and that was Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin.
In his 13 seasons at Cincinnati, Cronin posted a 296-147 record, which is good for a win percentage of 66.8%. That successful run also included the Bearcats making the NCAA Tournament the last nine seasons he was there.
Cronin also made the NCAA Tournament twice in his three seasons at Murray State prior to leaving for Cincinnati. His record at Murray State over those three seasons was 69-24.
While Cronin has been extremely successful during his time as a head coach in the regular season, he has struggled come postseason time, only posting a career tournament record of 6-11 and despite having some highly-seeded teams, the furthest he’s made it is the Sweet Sixteen.
With that being said, he has gotten his teams inside the top-10 in the rankings during three separate seasons and at UCLA he will have better resources and access to better talent than he did while at Cincinnati, where he did have very good regular seasons.
Cronin’s teams have always been about defense and toughness but have been limited offensively, which is something he will need to address if he wants to make it further come March, but at UCLA he should have access to players that will make the offensive side of things easier.
A big part of his new job is he will have to show that he can recruit on the West Coast after spending his whole career as a head coach in the Mid West. The good thing for him is that recruiting to UCLA isn’t the hardest task in all of college basketball.
There have been a good amount of deflections from the UCLA roster since the season ended so it will be a little bit of a rebuild for Cronin, but with the level of recruit that UCLA can get, it’s not unrealistic in my opinion to expect UCLA to be back in the tournament in about two seasons with this first season being a transition year.
For UCLA, this coaching search was a bit of a mess. It started with rumors of John Calipari being more interested in the job than people would’ve thought, but eventually committing to Kentucky long-term. Who knows how true those rumors were, but they were out there.
The rumors were also out there about TCU coach Jamie Dixon, but it was rumored that UCLA didn’t want to pay his buyout and that deal eventually fell through, and then Rick Barnes was briefly mentioned before getting a raise at Tennessee.
Given the bad optics this coaching search provided, I think this is still a very good coach to end up with. Cronin has won a lot in the regular season and yes he does have things to figure out in the tournament, but he should bring toughness and an identity to UCLA that has been lacking.
Top Photo of Mick Cronin, courtesy of: John Minchillo/Associated Press