UCLA officials have narrowed their focus on Texas Christian’s Jamie Dixon and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin in the search to fill their basketball coaching vacancy after striking out with a slew of top targets, the Los Angeles Times has learned.
Dixon and Cronin emerged as leading candidates after a bevy of more coveted coaches expressed no interest, were eliminated through the school’s vetting process or declined to be interviewed until after the Final Four.
UCLA hopes to have a coach in place within the next week as the field of candidates continues to dwindle, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Athletic department officials recently met with Cronin as part of the school’s lengthy search for a permanent replacement for coach Steve Alford, who was dismissed in late December after five-plus seasons.
The Bruins are also considering St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett, Texas coach Shaka Smart and former Phoenix Suns coach and UCLA alumnus Earl Watson as fallback options, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation.
Dixon, 53, recently hired UCLA associate head coach Duane Broussard as an assistant on his staff but said in January that he was staying at his alma mater when asked about the Bruins’ opening. He seemed a bit more ambiguous about the possibility when asked about it Monday. “I don’t talk about rumors, speculation ... no part of it,” Dixon told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I don’t think it’s good for anyone involved. I stay consistent in that regard.”
Dixon, a native of North Hollywood who apprenticed for several years as an assistant under former UCLA coach Ben Howland during previous stops at Pittsburgh and Northern Arizona, has compiled a 395-163 record in 16 seasons at Pittsburgh and Texas Christian. Dixon’s Horned Frogs play Smart’s Longhorns on Tuesday in a National Invitation Tournament semifinal at Madison Square Garden.