You guys will never believe it, but it looks like the UCLA Athletic Department has managed to goof up another coaching search.
After reports earlier this week that the UCLA Bruins had offered the men’s basketball head coaching job to current TCU head coach Jamie Dixon, things began to feel like a formality as a buyout was all that stood between UCLA and a new, solid head coach. So, of course, UCLA found a way to mess it up.
Ben Bolch is reporting that, barring a last-minute change, Dixon is out of the running for the UCLA coaching job as his reported $8 million dollar buyout is a sticking point with TCU unwilling to lower the amount and UCLA unwilling to pay the buyout. The Bruins suddenly find themselves having to shift their focus to their apparent third choice for the head coaching position.
It is another disaster of UCLA’s own making.
Let’s explain a few things: TCU is under no obligation to lower the buyout that they set in their contract with Dixon. Buyouts exist to help protect both programs and coaches, especially if another program comes sniffing around your coach. While this could backfire on the Horned Frogs, it’s hard to see Dixon failing to perform his duties as basketball coach of his alma mater. So, they should be fine.
On UCLA’s end, once again, the sheer ineptitude of the athletic department was put on full display. Because, again, Dixon’s buyout with TCU was pretty well known and it should not have caught a well-prepared athletic department off-guard. Again, TCU is under no obligation to lower the buyout amount. Once UCLA focused in on Dixon, they needed to be prepared to pay the full buyout. If TCU negotiated to lower it? Awesome, but, at no point, should it have been assumed and it seems that UCLA assumed they would be given a deal here, which is an amazing bit of hubris.
On top of that, UCLA has once again shown itself to be just as cheap as its national detractors proclaim it to be. UCLA fans have tried to repeatedly argue that things have changed, that UCLA is more than willing to pay competitive rates for top-end coaches and facilities. The John Calipari contract details leaking out seemed to be a message from the athletic department that they were willing to pay to secure a good coach. But the downside is that those leaks are being seen in real-time. Once you proclaim that you have that kind of money, you need to actually show a willingness to spend it. Otherwise, you look like all talk.
No matter how you look at it, this disaster of a coaching search again falls at the feet of athletic director Dan Guerrero with a new special shout-out to Senior Associate AD Josh Rebholz. UCLA fired Steve Alford with the idea that it would give them plenty of time to identify quality candidates, or even attainable candidates, and put together what they believed they would need to secure their services. Instead, the athletic department appears to be on its back foot, while the national media again gets to rightly point out how far the program has fallen.
As an aside before I finish, the Chip Kelly hiring looks more and more like a hiring that had as little to do with anyone associated with UCLA as possible. Instead, it really appears that Chip Kelly wanted to be at UCLA and told the Bruins with enough time to put together a competitive enough contract offer for Kelly to reasonably choose UCLA over Florida. That or a broken clock is right twice a day.
So now we approach Day 100 of the coaching search, with UCLA seeming to hope Mick Cronin will still say yes to them despite being considered the main candidate for the newly-open Virginia Tech job under his former AD from Cincinnati. Does UCLA then pivot to candidates even further down their supposed list like Shaka Smart or Randy Bennett? Do they use this setback to reset and wait for the Final Four to end and approach any of the coaches currently still in the tournament? Do they finally reassess the process in place and stop being so cautious?
Let’s be absolutely clear here: UCLA could still end up with a good coach. Tony Bennett could suddenly decide he is willing to leave Virginia, Billy Donovan could decide he wants to return to college, or some other thing happens. But it doesn’t change how much of a debacle this has been.
Welcome back to being the laughing stock of the college basketball world, Bruin fans.