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Mick Cronin introduced as UCLA coach: ‘I understand the expectations’

Mick Cronin introduced as UCLA coach: ‘I understand the expectations’
New UCLA basketball coach Mick Cronin, right, sits next to athletic director Dan Guerrero during an introductory news conference Wednesday in Westwood. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA hired Mick Cronin as its new basketball coach Tuesday after a lengthy search that began back in December. Cronin, whose deal to coach the Bruins is for six years and $24 million, will be introduced to the Los Angeles media Wednesday. Follow our live coverage of the event below.

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Mick Cronin not bothered by UCLA’s hiring process, said he’s ‘here to win’

Mick Cronin said he was comfortable with UCLA’s hiring process as it chose a new men’s basketball coach.

He said the school communicated with him throughout the process, and were honest about considering other candidates. Cronin said he was not concerned by reports and speculation that the program was pursuing other coaches. They followed the timetable they gave Cronin, he said.

“It was trust us, trust us, trust us,” Cronin said of the process.

As for the team’s goals, Cronin said his focus now is on building relationships with the players. When asked about whether he would keep current UCLA assistant coaches on his staff, Cronin said, “I’m considering everybody.”

Throughout the press conference, Cronin emphasized winning — in his approach, his goals, his reasons for taking the job.

“It’s UCLA,” Cronin said. “I understand the expectations. And the sooner the better.”

— Blake Richardson

New UCLA coach Mick Cronin, right, shares a light moment with former Bruins player Jamaal Wilkes.
New UCLA coach Mick Cronin, right, shares a light moment with former Bruins player Jamaal Wilkes. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Mick Cronin excited to follow John Wooden’s footsteps at UCLA

Mick Cronin posed for a photo with a white UCLA basketball jersey, athletic director Dan Guerrero to his right.

“Those four letters are more important than the name on the back,” Cronin remarked.

When Cronin made his opening statement at his introductory press conference, he said he knew the job would be “tremendous challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity.” He expressed excitement at the chance to follow coach John Wooden’s legacy.

“It was an unbelievable honor for me, so I’m a little overwhelmed,” Cronin said of the job. “But trust me, I’m prepared.”

Cronin said the “toughest day of my life” came the day before, when he told his team at Cincinnati that he was leaving the program. It was a day, Cronin said, he never thought would come.

He met with his new players for a half-hour Wednesday morning. He implored them to ask questions and emphasized the importance of honoring the history of UCLA’s program.

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“UCLA is elite, has always been elite,” Cronin said. “We need to be elite on the court. And obviously, I believe we’re gonna do that.”

— Blake Richardson

Dan Guerrero introduces Mick Cronin

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero introduced Mick Cronin as UCLA’s new men’s basketball coach at a press conference Wednesday.

“We want you to rally behind this coach,” Guerrero said, addressing Bruins fans.

Besides on-the-court success, Guerrero said the Bruins wanted a coach who could build programs, develop players and wanted to be part of the program. Guerrero said Cronin’s desire to lead UCLA was evident “from the moment we met.”

“We’re absolutely thrilled with the outcome,” Guerrero said of the coaching decision.

— Blake Richardson

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, left, welcomes new men's basketball coach Mick Cronin during Wednesday's news conference.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, left, welcomes new men's basketball coach Mick Cronin during Wednesday's news conference. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Mick Cronin’s hiring by UCLA meshes with basketball program’s blue-collar identity

Everyone who says Mick Cronin is a questionable choice as the new UCLA basketball coach needs to ask a different question.

What is UCLA basketball?

Don’t answer with history, legacy or John Wooden. Don’t talk about something that happened nearly a quarter of a century ago. Don’t look at flapping banners, look at the grounded reality.

What is UCLA basketball right now?

If you think it’s still a program that can attract the likes of John Calipari or Tony Bennett or any other coach with national championship credentials, you’re wrong.

If you think it’s run by businessmen savvy enough to foresee a Jamie Dixon buyout problemor perceptive enough to not get worked by Rick Barnes, you’re kidding yourself.

If you think it’s bulletproof enough to survive the potential controversies resting in the baggage of a Rick Pitino, you haven’t noticed the school’s involvement in the admissions scandal.

— Bill Plaschke

Charles Barkley as UCLA’s basketball coach? Chip Kelly liked the idea, before Mick Cronin news

Before the start of UCLA’s spring football practice Tuesday morning at Spaulding Field, head coach Chip Kelly asked reporters whether a men’s basketball coach had been hired yet. He even revealed who he’d choose.

“I’d pay top dollar for Charles Barkley,” Kelly said, twirling the string to his whistle around his index finger. “He’s super intelligent, he’s tough, he’s one of the 50 best players of all time and he’d be a great recruiter ... he gets my vote.”

UCLA fired Steve Alford in December and assistant Murray Bartow served as interim coach for the rest of the season.

“I know Charles is a TV guy now, but so was Steve Kerr when the Warriors hired him and he’s done pretty well,” Kelly added.

Later Monday, UCLA announced it had hired Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin and given him a six-year, $24-million deal.

— Steve Galluzzo

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