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Bolch: UCLA Basketball Coaching Search Backstory Revealed

In an article in the LA Times, Ben Bolch tells the story behind the UCLA basketball coaching search.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA-Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Ben Bolch of the LA Times published a very detailed story of the backstory that every Bruin basketball is interested in — UCLA’s search to replace Steve Alford.

This article is a must-read piece that anyone who followed along with the search needs to read.

In the article, Bolch has the details that many of our readers were wondering aloud in our comments during the home stretch of the search, including how close it seems like UCLA may have been to landing John Calipari. Bolch writes:

Multiple meetings between UCLA and Calipari ensued, and the Bruins eventually agreed to satisfy all of the coach’s demands, according to two people familiar with the search but not authorized to speak about it publicly.

Among them were a contract that would pay Calipari $45 million over six seasons, a $1.7-million pool for assistant coaches, eight new staff positions, private planes for the use of the team and its coaches, and a monthly catered meal for Calipari’s staff and players. Negotiations progressed to the point that Rebholz reached out to donors, seeking money to help cover all the new expenditures that Calipari’s hiring would entail, according to people familiar with Calipari’s requests.

Bolch even has quotes from Josh Rebholz’s texts to large Bruin donors like this one which mentioned Villanova coach Jay Wright:

“We think we have 2-3 solid names that we can land,” Rebholz wrote. “Tier II type names who want to be at UCLA, are good human beings, and have been successful and want to win national championships and have a vision to do so.

“We would have loved for Jay Wright to walk out on the floor, but even when we offered to double his salary, he still wasn’t coming. Nothing we can do about that. But I am proud of our effort. We didn’t assume anything, took our shots and I believe will end up with a solid coach who will embrace UCLA and build a program we all can be proud of and root for.”

He then goes into great detail about how the search turned to Jamie Dixon and how Dixon’s people thought TCU would budge on his buyout because Pittsburgh had done the same for TCU when the Horned Frogs hired Dixon.

He also discusses the negotiations with Rick Barnes, which looked to be concluded before Barnes apparently asked for more money.

But, it’s the Dixon situation that’s one of the most interesting tidbits.

Apparently, UCLA kept trying to find a way to land Dixon and, finally, they had a way to finance the deal, but it ultimately fell through because of the taxes that would have needed to be paid on Dixon’s buyout to the State of California which taxes buyouts as a gift.

When it was clear that the Dixon deal had fallen apart, UCLA offered the job to Cronin.

One more thing that stands out from the article is that the athletic department vetted some candidates through the NCAA and others through an Atlanta-based search firm and there was a group of candidates who were interested in the job, but the committee had decided couldn’t be hired because of what happened during the vetting process. No names are mentioned here, nor does Bolch mention exactly what was discovered during the vetting process that forced the search committee to scratch off those names.

But, at the very least, it shows that the search committee took the vetting process very seriously, unlike last time when Mark Harlan, now Utah’s AD, was in charge of the search that got the Bruins Steve Alford.

Go Bruins!