After winding search, UCLA hires Cincinnati's Mick Cronin as head coach

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Sam Cooper
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Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, center, directs his players in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Houston, Sunday, March 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
UCLA has hired Mick Cronin from Cincinnati as its head coach. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

UCLA’s winding coaching search has finally reached a conclusion.

The school announced Tuesday that it has hired Mick Cronin as its next head coach. Cronin, 47, has spent the last 13 seasons as the head coach at Cincinnati, his alma mater. Cronin coached the Bearcats to nine consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, but UC has only once advanced past the Round of 32 during that span — a Sweet 16 loss in 2012.

Cronin, who also coached Murray State for three seasons, has a 365-171 record in 16 seasons as a college head coach

"Mick Cronin is a fierce competitor, and I'm excited to welcome him to Westwood," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "Mick has built a fantastic program at Cincinnati, backed by integrity and discipline, and he has instilled an undeniable toughness in his student-athletes. I am confident he will build this program the right way and lead UCLA basketball back to national prominence."

Added Cronin: "I am incredibly humbled and honored to become the head coach at UCLA. I'm especially grateful to Chancellor Block and to Dan Guerrero for this opportunity to join the Bruin Family. UCLA is a very special place with a strong tradition of excellence. To be able to join such a world-class institution is truly a privilege, and I can't wait to get started in Westwood."

Cronin and UCLA agreed to a six-year contract worth $24 million, the school said.

UCLA missed out on many coaches before hiring Cronin

UCLA fired Steve Alford on Dec. 31, so it had a head-start in the hiring process. The school set its sights high, but came up short in its pursuit of a bevy of upper echelon candidates.

Among the coaches pursued by UCLA were Kentucky’s John Calipari, Virginia’s Tony Bennett, TCU’s Jamie Dixon and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes.

Calipari leveraged the interest from UCLA into a “lifetime” contract at Kentucky. Bennett, who coached the Cavs to a national title on Monday night, was not interested. Dixon and UCLA reportedly hit a snag over UCLA’s reluctance to pay the $8 million buyout to separate Dixon from his contract at TCU. Barnes, after mulling the decision for a few days, turned down UCLA Monday night in order to stay at Tennessee.

The floundering search reflected the reality of UCLA’s fall from the top of college basketball. Now Cronin will be tasked with bringing the Bruins back up the ladder.

"I have great hopes for Mick Cronin and am confident he understands our values of academic and athletic excellence, recognizing the very high bar set by Coach John Wooden,” UCLA chancellor Gene Block said.

Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers, a UCLA letterman who assisted with the search, said that it was important the school found a coach who “really wants to be here.”

"As a former player who knows firsthand how special it is to wear the four letters – UCLA – I am excited that we got a coach in Mick who wants to be a part of this historic program,” Myers said.

UCLA has not advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2008.

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