Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Meet New UCLA: Plucky Underdog


UCLA has permanently tied up for Plan B (or C or D) in its coaching searches.

Jim Harvick said that Jim Harrick, who won the event’s last national championship, was given the job after Jim Valvano and Larry Brown said no. Ben Holland, who led UCLA to three consecutive finals, could not be awarded to Westwood after Rick Pitino, Roy Williams and Mike Montgomery. When Howell left, and Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart could not be sold to work, the Bruins settled for Steve Alford.

It was no different when Alford was fired Two years ago in the midseason.

UCLA followed John Calipari, and met with him several times, but he said no – a 10-year, $ 86 million extension from Kentucky eased a decision. Discussions were held with Jamie Dixon of Texas Christian and Rick Byrnes of Tennessee, but no one made the deal. Bruce chose not to wait to chase Tony Bennett, who was in the middle of a championship run in Virginia.

After an almost 100-day search, UCLA settled on Cronin, who was a steady winner in Cincinnati, but one who had very little NCAA tournament success.

The fare itself was an interesting experiment. High school stars at UCLA come for a myriad of reasons – access to Hollywood, beaches, connections. This is a happy way station for a rising star waiting to make an NBA call. Which players hardly come to Westwood for defense. Yet for Cronin, the greed was clear: coming to UCLA would give him the opportunity to recruit elite players.

Cronin picked up Johnny Xujang, who worked fresh on the bench in Kentucky last season, but went on to star in this year’s tournament. He added Daish Nix, a five-star guard Bolt for g league the last summer. And he signed Peyton Watson, a guard at Long Beach Poly, who would be McDonald’s first American to coach at Cronin UCLA

These are all players he may have never seen in Cincinnati.

Hep Cronin said referring to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Kansas coach Bill Self and North Carolina coach Williams, “If he had gone to the gym and seen Izzo, Self and Roy before, he would have had to go to another gym.” “You can’t chase a bad hand. The only way for some of these people to stay in the living room is with an underground tunnel. At UCLA, you walk in the front door. “



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