MINNEAPOLIS -- Early last week, right after The Athletic reported that UCLA had offered Kentucky's John Calipari a six-year contract worth $48 million, a lot of us who write and talk about college basketball for a living spent a few minutes laughing because, well, because it was hilarious. I mean, how delusional do you have to be to think you could get a coach to leave his great job for your inferior job by offering less money than he currently makes to live in a market where the cost of living is drastically higher?
Such a weird pursuit. Such a waste of time.
So we all got our jokes off -- mostly via Twitter. Meantime, a man named Michael Hanna, who writes for GoJoeBruin.com, was in those same Twitter streets challenging every national media member who dared mock UCLA and its nonsensical coaching search. From his perspective, this was a classic case of the national media just not understanding what the locals understood. We were all misguided, at best, biased or dumb, at worst. So you can imagine the smile on my face when I saw the following tweet this weekend.
Dear national media types I slated earlier this week, like @GaryParrishCBS @PeteThamel @DanWolken @GoodmanHoops and others: I apologize. I was wrong, you were right. This is a cheap-ass clown program and I hope you run wild on every administrator involved in @UCLAAthletics. https://t.co/cjrlrat9GA— Michael Hanna (@MichaelMHanna) April 5, 2019
In other words, the same diehards who were rationalizing UCLA's confusing search a week ago have now turned on the people running, or working on behalf of, the UCLA athletic department they love. And, honestly, who could blame them? UCLA fired Steve Alford on New Year's Eve and has spent the past three months doing little more than pursuing John Calipari and a bunch of other high-profile coaches who had no real interest in the job. Eventually, school officials figured out what everybody else already knew -- i.e., that no great coach with a great job in a great league wants to work at UCLA, where expectations are way out of whack and the hot seat is always just around the corner -- and began focusing on a second tier of candidates headlined by TCU's Jamie Dixon. And that's when things really got stupid.
Dixon has an $8 million buyout, you see?
So when the Los Angeles Times reported last week that UCLA was finalizing a deal with Dixon, it was reasonable to assume UCLA had decided to pay Dixon's $8 million buyout because how else did UCLA think it was going to get a deal done? The only reason a school would ever lower a buyout is if the school wants its coach to leave -- like Memphis wanted Josh Pastner to leave for Georgia Tech in April 2016. But TCU does not want Dixon to leave. So TCU was never going to lower the buyout even if UCLA, for reasons that remain unclear, apparently thought TCU might. Eventually, though, UCLA officials finally figured out, again, what everybody else already knew -- i.e., that Dixon's buyout would remain $8 million -- and, incredibly, backed away, meaning UCLA pursued a coach with an $8 million buyout but ultimately decided not to hire him because of, follow me here, an $8 million buyout. And now the same man who was defending UCLA passionately a week ago has resorted to calling UCLA a "cheap-ass clown program."
That's quite the turn of events.
Honestly, I'm not sure what's dumber -- offering John Calipari a lesser job for less money or pursuing Jamie Dixon when you're unwilling to pay the $8 million buyout his contract always stated it would take to get him. But both are undeniably dumb. And it really is hard to imagine a coaching search being run more poorly than this one. UCLA was the first big job to open and will be the last big job to get filled.
Which is not to suggest UCLA won't still land a nice coach.
This remains a top-20 job. Somebody good will take it.
But if UCLA does end up with a nice coach, it'll do so in spite of the clumsy and illogical search it is conducting. Athletic director Dan Guerrero and the people assisting him should've been able to figure out months ago what's possible and impossible, what's realistic and unrealistic. Instead, UCLA officials have been pursuing coaches it can't get and at least one it, at the end of the day, balked at paying.
Just a mess.
And, yes, I realize conducting a coaching search is probably harder than most understand. But this one should've never been this hard. Or misguided. Or lengthy. Or nonsensical. Or frustrating for the fans who want to believe UCLA knows what it's doing but are slowly realizing UCLA has no idea what it's doing.