Five realistic candidates for the UCLA opening
Losers of their last four, including home losses to Belmont and Liberty, the Bruins have started just 7-6 this season despite a roster full of four and five-star prospects. If Alford’s run is indeed over, who could replace him? Here are five names that could pop up in a job search.
BRUINBLITZ.COM: Alford departure imminent
JAMIE DIXON - Head coach, TCU
Dixon is a native of the Los Angeles area and at 53 years old is still relatively young. Dixon has a career record of 384-151, was national coach of the year in 2009 and made the NCAA Tournament 11 out of 13 years during his first major head coaching job at Pittsburgh.
Since his arrival at TCU, his alma mater, Dixon has taken a program that was on life support and won the NIT in his first year, made the NCAA Tournament last year and has the Horned Frogs knocking on the door of the national top 25.
No, he’s not recruited the SoCal area, but what Dixon has done on the recruiting trail speaks for itself. During his time at Pitt, he landed 27 Rivals150 prospects (14 four and five five-star) and he’s had unprecedented recruiting success at TCU where he’s already landed nine four-star prospects at a program that had landed one prior to his arrival in the spring of 2016.
FRED HOIBERG - Former head coach, Chicago Bulls
Since getting let go by the Chicago Bulls during his fourth season at the helm, it has been a certainty that Hoiberg’s name was going to come up in big-time job searches. So, it’s only natural that his name will be brought up in the mix at UCLA.
Only 46 years old, Hoiberg had a tremendous run at Iowa State, his alma mater, before trying his hand at the NBA. During his five seasons in his hometown of Ames, Hoiberg led the Cyclones from the bottom of the Big 12 to NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four of his five years on the job. He also won a pair of Big 12 Tournament titles.
Much of Hoiberg’s success was built on maximizing transfer talent, but he can point to guys like Georges Niang and Monte Morris as well-thought-of but not too highly regarded players that he helped build into NBA prospects in his modern, fun to watch offensive system.
ERIC MUSSELMAN - Head coach, Nevada
Now enjoying tremendous success at Nevada where he’s built a top 10 program, many in the industry have felt Musselman covets the UCLA job for some time now.
Musselman has extensive experience at the NBA level and has been a hit at Nevada, where he’s taken them from winning the CBI in year one to the NCAA Tournament in year two, the Sweet Sixteen in year three and now has a Final Four capable team in year four.
He has mastered the transfer market as a means to get talent but also landed five-star forward Jordan Brown in the class of 2018.
RICK PITINO - Head coach, Panathinaikos
Why not throw Pitino into the mix? Sure, the off-the-floor troubles that ended his career at Louisville will cause some to roll their eyes, but he would certainly hit the ground running and has a resume that will be tough to top.
Exactly where Pitino stands with the NCAA could be a hurdle here and athletic director Dan Guerrero isn’t known for being one to rock the boat. So, maybe he's not the most realistic of candidates. But, there is no doubt that the 66-year-old would make waves and his name has been getting thrown around some since the latest rumors of Alford's demise fired up. He’s won National Championships at Kentucky and Louisville, so he not only knows how to win but he knows how to deal with the pressure of coaching at a Blueblood college program.
Somebody is eventually going to make a run at him. Could the Bruins consider?
EARL WATSON - Former head coach, Phoenix Suns
At UCLA, former players are always going to have a lot to say about the direction of the program. In Watson, we are talking about a four-year starter at UCLA who was an All-Conference player for the Bruins before going on to play 12 years in the NBA.
Watson’s head coaching experience is a bit on the thin side and comes from the NBA level where he took over the Phoenix Suns in second half of the 2015-16 before being let go shortly after the start of the 2017-18 season while compiling a 33-85 record.
Prior to getting into NBA coaching, Watson was active in coaching and running successful grassroots summer programs and there are going to be several former Bruins stars that will be behind the idea of hiring him.