Following UCLA’s six-year, $48 million contract offer to John Calipari, which resulted in him inking a lifetime contract extension with the Kentucky Wildcats, UCLA officials narrowed their coaching search to a more realistic list on Monday.
While Smart is an option for the job, UCLA has focused in on TCU’s Jamie Dixon and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin as their top candidates. Per the report, the Bruins have already met with Cronin about the opening.
For something else to keep in mind, Dixon grew up in the Los Angeles area. He was born in North Hollywood, played his high school basketball at Notre Dame, and began his coaching career at Los Angeles Valley College. His local background along with a proven ability to win at other major conference programs (Pittsburgh, TCU) may lead him back to his roots.
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. UCLA hopes to have a coach in place within the next week as the field of potential candidates continues to dwindle, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Along with Smart, St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett and UCLA alumnus Earl Watson were listed as ‘fallback options’ for the opening.
Meanwhile, while the wild speculation in Hollywood continues, Dixon and Smart will meet at the historical Madison Square Garden tomorrow night (8:30 Central ESPN) for a pretty important basketball game. The winner gets to play for an NIT championship on Thursday night.