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UCLA’s Dead-End Coaching Search

When your choices are Jamie Dixon and Mick Cronin, you can’t really call yourself an elite program anymore.

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Syracuse v TCU
If Jamie Dixon is the best UCLA can come up with the fans are about to go full Wake Forest.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The UCLA search has been ongoing for three months since firing Steve Alford and it apparently has come down to two guys: TCU’s Jamie Dixon and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin.

Dixon, a native of Southern California, is apparently the leading contender and negotiations are reportedly underway but his $8 million dollar buyout at TCU is a serious issue.

Which would be a lucky break for UCLA.

Both Dixon and Cronin, to put it mildly, have boring styles. More importantly, neither has ever done much post-season damage, much less consistently.

Dixon has made it to the Sweet Sixteen twice and the Elite Eight once, all prior to 2010.

As for Cronin, he’s lost in the first round six times, in the round of 32 four times and made the Sweet Sixteen just once.

That doesn’t even begin to get into Dixon’s pathetic scheduling which he’s done at Pitt and TCU. It’s worse than what Herb Sendek did at NC State and keep in mind that his former boss at Pitt, Ben Howland, made three Final Fours and still got fired.

Neither of these guys is going to restore UCLA basketball much less make its fans happy.

They’re never going to find a Woodenesque coach that way and in fact, UCLA didn’t find Wooden that either: he was at Indiana State, then an NAIA program.

And while he never had a losing season at UCLA he was 14-12 the year before Vic Bubas took the Duke job in 1960.

UCLA is not what it was in 1948 when Wooden accepted the job. But it’s also not what it was in 1975 when he relinquished it after winning the national championship seven straight times and 10 out of 12 seasons.

UCLA basketball needs to stand for something substantive and stylistically. Ben Howland already proved that just winning isn’t enough. This program needs more than that.

The best way for UCLA to rebuild and recover is not to import John Calipari (who used them and made the school look pathetic) but rather to identify a rising star.

The school should regroup, talk to a number of coaches, and find a young coach who is on his way up. If he fails, he fails. But at least the school will be spared the mediocrity of Jamie Dixon who cannot and will not restore the school to anything close to its past glory.

UCLA fans might feel disappointed but consider the legends of the game and where they started. Dean Smith was a humble assistant. Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight both started at Army. Everett Case came to NC State from Indiana high school. Al McGuire started at Belmont Abbey. Jay Wright started at Hofstra and Jim Calhoun at Northeastern. John Beilein’s first job was at a Erie Community College; his second was at D-III Nazareth.

Sure the risk is higher but the reward would be higher too. And when you’ve worked your way down to Dixon and Cronin, well they’re both successful coaches, but hardly as elite as UCLA sees itself because realistically, it no longer is. If it wants to get back it needs to find a talented builder and a guy who desperately wants to be there, not a job hopper.

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