UCLA's coaching search has narrowed to Jamie Dixon and Mick Cronin, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Dixon and Cronin emerged as leading candidates after a bevy of more coveted coaches expressed no interest, were eliminated through the school’s vetting process or declined to be interviewed until after the Final Four," Ben Bolch wrote on Monday.
If Cronin, a Cincinnati native and alum with 296 wins and nine NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 seasons, leaves for UCLA, who might Cincinnati target as their next head coach?
It'd be the first men's basketball hire for sixth-year athletics director Mike Bohn, who arrived in 2014 while Cronin was in his eighth season. Bohn, however, has hired four men's basketball head coaches at previous stops: David Farrar and Leonard Perry at Idaho, and Jeff Bzdelik and Tad Boyle at Colorado.
Something to consider: All four had previous ties to the school or area. Farrar was a Vandals' assistant, Perry played at Idaho, Bzdelik came from Air Force, and Boyle is a Colorado native who coached high school basketball in the state and came from Northern Colorado.
Cincinnati would be the best men's basketball vacancy Bohn has ever filled, and he'd have presumably decent money to offer (Cronin makes $2.2 million per season).
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Longtime Bearcats' assistant Darren Savino (since 2010) is the obvious in-house candidate if he doesn't follow Cronin to Westwood. One of the nation's best recruiters, Savino has previous stops at St. John's, Rutgers and elsewhere, and has strong relationships from the midwest to the east coast.
Thad Matta is a perfect fit geographically. Recently on the High Motor podcast, Jeff Goodman talked Matta's desire to remain in the midwest and interest in a return to coaching. He's spent all but one season of his 27-year career in Ohio or Indiana.
The mid-major list could be long for Cincinnati. Mike Rhoades, Earl Grant, John Brannen, Matt McMahon, Nathan Davis, Steve Forbes and Wes Miller could all be in play. It's difficult to see Jeff Boals ditching his alma mater, Ohio, weeks after arriving from Stony Brook, but we've seen difficult before.
If they want another young coach who will (hopefully) stay for at least a decade like Cronin (arrived from Murray State as a 34-year-old), Miller is only 36 and has eight seasons of head-coaching experience at UNC Greensboro. McMahon (40), Grant (42) and Davis (44) are also on the young side.
Assistants to watch: Ohio State's Ryan Pedon, Notre Dame's Rod Balanis, Oklahoma's Chris Crutchfield.