UCLA hires Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin as men’s basketball coach

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Mick Cronin will try to bring UCLA back to national glory. | Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP

LOS ANGELES — Mick Cronin was hired as UCLA’s basketball coach Tuesday, ending a months-long search to find a replacement for the fired Steve Alford.

The university says Cronin agreed to a $24 million, six-year deal.

He had a 296-146 record at his alma mater Cincinnati over 16 seasons and led the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last nine years. They routed the Bruins by 29 points in December.

“Mick has built a fantastic program at Cincinnati, backed by integrity and discipline, and he has instilled an undeniable toughness in his student-athletes,” UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a statement. “I am confident he will build this program the right way and lead UCLA basketball back to national prominence.”

Cronin, 47, will be introduced at a campus news conference Wednesday.

“UCLA is a very special place with a strong tradition of excellence,” he said in the statement. “To be able to join such a world-class institution is truly a privilege, and I can’t wait to get started in Westwood.”

Cronin’s only other head coaching stint was at Murray State from 2003 to 2006, when the Racers were 69-24. He was associate head coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino from 2001 to 2003 and worked as an assistant and video coordinator from 1996 to 2001 under Bob Huggins at Cincinnati.

Alford was fired on Dec. 31 after the Bruins began the season with a 7-6 record. At the time, they were mired in a four-game skid that included home losses to Belmont and Liberty.

Alford had a 124-63 record in Westwood after taking over the program in March 2013. The 54-year-old coach won one Pac-12 tournament title but never a regular-season league title, and made four NCAA Tournament appearances, including Sweet 16 berths in his first two years.

But the drop-off was swift for a school that owns a record 11 national championships. The Bruins lost to St. Bonaventure in the First Four last season, the first time in school history that UCLA was relegated to a play-in game.

They failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16, when the team went 15-17 for the program’s fourth losing record since 1948 when John Wooden became the coach.

They also didn’t make the NCAAs this season under interim coach Murry Bartow, who took over from Alford and guided the Bruins to a 17-16 finish, including a 9-9 Pac-12 mark.

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