Revived U.C.L.A. Will Face Michigan for Remaining 4 Berth

U.C.L.A. has perpetually settled for Plan B (or C or D) in its teaching searches.

Jim Harrick, who gained this system’s final nationwide championship, in 1995, was given the job after Jim Valvano and Larry Brown mentioned no. Ben Howland, who took U.C.L.A. to a few consecutive Remaining Fours, was employed after Rick Pitino, Roy Williams and Mike Montgomery couldn’t be lured to Westwood. When Howland left, and Brad Stevens and Shaka Good couldn’t be offered on the job, the Bruins settled for Steve Alford.

It was no totally different when Alford was fired at midseason two years in the past.

U.C.L.A. pursued John Calipari, and met a number of occasions with him, however he mentioned no — a call made simpler by a 10-year, $86 million extension from Kentucky. There have been discussions with Texas Christian’s Jamie Dixon and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, however none that produced a deal. The Bruins selected to not wait to pursue Tony Bennett, who was in the midst of a championship run at Virginia.

After a virtually 100-day search, U.C.L.A. settled on Cronin, who had constructed a gentle winner in Cincinnati, however one which had little N.C.A.A. match success.

The rent itself was an attention-grabbing experiment. Highschool stars come to U.C.L.A. for myriad causes — entry to Hollywood, the seaside, connections. It’s a pleasing method station for a rising star ready for the N.B.A. to name. What gamers don’t come to Westwood for, a minimum of not in recent times, is to play protection. But for Cronin, the lure was apparent: Coming to U.C.L.A. would give him the chance to recruit elite gamers.

Cronin picked up Johnny Juzang, who languished on the bench at Kentucky as a freshman final season however has taken a number of star turns on this 12 months’s match. He added a five-star guard, Daishen Nix, solely to have him bolt for the G League final summer time. And he has signed Peyton Watson, a guard from Lengthy Seaside Poly whose arrival will break a two-year streak of not having a McDonald’s all-American on the U.C.L.A. roster.

These are all gamers he by no means would have gotten at Cincinnati.

“If he walked right into a health club and noticed Izzo, Self and Roy earlier than, he’d should go to a different health club,” mentioned Hep Cronin, referring to Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, Kansas Coach Invoice Self and North Carolina Coach Williams. “You’ll be able to’t chase a nasty hand. The one method you get in the lounge of a few of these guys is with an underground tunnel. At U.C.L.A., you stroll within the entrance door.”

Final weekend, and now this one, Hep Cronin has been driving to Indianapolis from his house in Cincinnati. It’s the first time he has seen his son and his workforce in particular person because the begin of the pandemic. The best way the Bruins have performed, with their newfound dedication and self-discipline permitting their abilities to shine, they’ve been his newest prospect value following.

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