John Calipari said Los Angeles Times in what is shaping up to be an increasingly messy coaching search out west.to UCLA in its reported pursuit of him. Now another coaching candidate, TCU's Jamie Dixon, has been ruled out according to the
UCLA might be back to Square One. Dixon was reportedly in negotiations with the Bruins to take over the head coaching opportunity in Westwood this week, but talks broke down over a number UCLA brass reportedly couldn't swallow: $8 million. That's the buyout number to bail Dixon out of his deal with the Horned Frogs. The Times reports the number became an "insurmountable sticking point for both sides." UCLA attempted to talk TCU into lowering the buyout, and TCU rightfully balked. Why would it pave the way for its head coach to leave town?
So, UCLA's coaching search continues.
Where does UCLA turn now? Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin seems the most logical -- and most discussed -- candidate. Cronin has won big at Cincy, and while his lack of NCAA Tournament success may be a sticking point -- he's never made an Elite Eight and only once made a Sweet 16 -- he's highly regarded as a strategist. He's done more with less, and theoretically, he could do a whole lot more with more talent at a program like UCLA.
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett, Texas coach Shaka Smart, and former Suns coach Earl Watson -- likely the most high-profile UCLA alumnus on the market -- have all been rumored as potential fallback options.
No matter where the search goes from here, the bottom line is this: No one is winning with the breakdown in talks with Dixon playing out so publicly. Dixon certainly not, considering recruits, booster and brass can all agree he'd be gone if the buyout were lower. UCLA isn't winning here, either. With its second swing-and-miss on the coaching carousel, it's now on at least option No. 3.
Whoever takes over will have their work cut out to replace Steve Alford, who was fired midseason after a 7-6 start. Alford made three Sweet 16 appearances and was practically escorted out of town. Prior to Alford, Ben Howland was quickly shown the door despite four Pac-10 regular season titles, two Pac-10 tournament titles and three Final Four appearances.
With the jumbo expectations at UCLA comes gigantic pressures. But for now, the pressure is on UCLA to avoid further bungling this mess and to find a coach. And soon.