UCLA not hurried in hiring Cronin, AD says

LOS ANGELES -- When UCLA Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero fired men's basketball coach Steve Alford on New Year's Eve, it provided what Guerrero termed a "long runway" to find a suitable replacement -- someone qualified to restore the program to its standing as one of the premier destinations in college basketball.

"We sat down right away and started compiling the list of potentials," Guerrero said. "To be honest with you, our goal was to look at Hall of Fame candidates and those who we felt might end up in the Hall of Fame, and that's where we shot."

Guerrero wasn't willing to discuss his failed attempts to land Kentucky's John Calipari, TCU's Jamie Dixon or Tennessee's Rick Barnes -- "It's not fair to any potential candidates and their institutions," he said -- and took exception to the general consensus that it was a flawed process that ultimately led the Bruins to hire Cincinnati's Mick Cronin.

"We had a lot of opportunity to really spend some time doing a thorough search, and that's in fact what we did. At no time did we ever say there was a drop-dead date," Guerrero said. "We wound up making our hire one day after the season ended, and we're having a press conference two days after the season, and for us, that seems like an appropriate timetable."

At Cronin's introductory press conference on Wednesday, Guerrero played up the fact that he was one of just six coaches to lead his team to the NCAA tournament the past nine years.

However, with just one Sweet 16 berth to his credit -- seven years ago -- it's clear Cronin has a lot of work to do before it would be worth discussing him in the context of the Hall of Fame.

For Cronin, that's part of UCLA's appeal. He said he used to lay in bed watching the Bruins and would ponder what he could accomplish should the opportunity to coach the program ever come his way.

"What could you do there you couldn't do at other places?" Cronin said he would ask himself. "The answer is a lot.

"I'm here to win national championships. Obviously, I feel we have everything in place here to get to that point."

That's why Cronin had no problem waiting out UCLA. Of course, it would have been nice to be the first and only person the school offered -- as was the case with Chip Kelly last year in the school's football program -- but that it didn't happen that way will eventually be brushed aside in favor of things that actually matter.

"Coaches don't ride the roller coaster the way everybody else probably would, at least if you're a veteran coach," Cronin said. "All I can convey is my experience, from interest in the job to first contact to constant contact to total honesty the entire time. Whether it was, 'Don't believe that,' from [Guerrero] and [senior associate athletic director Josh Rebholz]. 'Don't worry about that.' My constant message back to them was, trust me, I know. There's a bunch of things going on.

"My message to them was: 'It's UCLA. You have to go through a process. It's UCLA.'"

Guerrero, who has been the athletic director at UCLA since 2002, said the university's search was significantly impacted by the recent FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.

"There are individuals that our fans probably would have loved us to talk to that we could not engage based on the due diligence," he said.

Guerrero's current contract runs through December, but he said he has engaged in discussions about a contract extension with UCLA chancellor Gene Block.

"We're in a good spot," Guerrero said.

As for UCLA basketball, only time will tell.