Mick Cronin agreed to become the next basketball coach at UCLA on Tuesday, 100 days after the Bruins fired Steve Alford from the position. In the interim, UCLA stumbled and embarrassed itself repeatedly in its search for a head to its once-proud program.
First off, let’s get this out of the way: Mick Cronin is a good basketball coach. He’s done a really nice job at Cincinnati and knows the game inside and out. But here’s the thing: The 47-year-old is solid, not spectacular. If you told UCLA fans a few months ago they’d wind up with Cronin, there’s no doubt they would have been incredibly disappointed. If you told those same fans their athletic department would be made to look like chumps by John Calipari, then fail to lure coaches from TCU and Tennessee, they would have been furious.
UCLA and its bumbling athletic director, Dan Guerrero, got absolutely clowned by Calipari and his agent, who used feigned interest in a move to LA to leverage a new, “lifetime” deal with Kentucky. It was a seriously embarrassing episode during which Bruins fans got fired up about a potential blockbuster move just long enough to be sorely disappointed.
Jamie Dixon then appeared to be on his way to UCLA soon after that, but the Bruins wouldn’t pony up the cash to pay his buyout at TCU. Dixon opted to stay in Fort Worth.
Next up was Rick Barnes, who was reportedly offered $5 million a year by UCLA over the weekend. Despite reports he was planning to bolt west, he wound up staying with Tennessee, which isn’t exactly known as a basketball power.
After a long, torturous process, the Bruins settled on Cronin, who seemed like their sixth choice.
There was a time when UCLA owned the premier basketball program in the West. Gradually Arizona and Gonzaga have blitzed past the Bruins to take over. UCLA still grabs top recruits but, like Indiana, it is living off a reputation from the distant past.