After four straight losses to end the regular season and a fourth-place finish in the Pac-12 Conference, the UCLA men’s basketball team needed help to get into the NCAA Tournament.
Being one of those teams on the bubble, head coach Mick Cronin and the Bruins needed a lot of help from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to keep their season alive.
UCLA got a reprieve when it was selected for a First Four play-in game. No official invite to the Big Dance. Yet. for their lackluster play at the end of the season, the Bruins reward was a date against Michigan State. Somehow, and in some way, Cronin and the Bruins managed to get past the Spartans in overtime to advance.
They punched their ticket. But now as the No. 11 seed in their bracket, the Bruins would have to stare down and beat the cream of the crop to have a dream of making it to the Final Fout, and a possible berth to the national championship game.
Cronin and the Bruins did more than than that. They slew the dragons in the form of No. 2 Alabama, No. 1 Michigan on their way to a Final Four date with Gonzaga, the No. 1 team in the country.
The Bruins played as if they belonged on the big stage. In fact, it would take a buzzer-beating heave by Jalen Suggs in overtime to finally end the Bruins season in a crushing and heartbreaking 93-90 defeat.
That’s how well they played when it came to crunch time. And for that mini-run in the NCAA Tournament, Cronin is being financially rewarded. UCLA announced that the university had reached an agreement to give Cronin a two-year extension with $4 million each year guaranteed.
“In less than two years in Westwood – through seasons disrupted by a global pandemic – Mick has led UCLA Men’s Basketball back to its rightful place among the nation’s elite,” said Martin Jarmond, the UCLA Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics. “His leadership has given Bruin Nation a program to be proud of, galvanizing alumni and fans around the world, and it’s only the beginning. This extension represents the stability and commitment needed to execute the long-term vision that Mick and I share. The future is bright.”
The improbable run by UCLA marked the first time that the Bruins had made it to the Final Four since 2008. After UCLA finished fourth in the Pac-12 Conference, the Bruins got upended by Colorado in the conference tournament, making what they were able to achieve even more remarkable.
UCLA, which has made the NCAA Tournament twice during the two seasons Cronin has coached the team, ended the year with a No. 7 ranking in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll, powered by USA Today Sports.
“I am extremely grateful to Chancellor Block and Martin Jarmond for the opportunity to continue leading the UCLA program,” Cronin said. “I love being at UCLA. The commitment from our players over the past two seasons has been rewarding, especially as we have dealt with some unusual challenges during a global pandemic. I would like to thank our players and my coaching staff for their continued commitment to build this basketball program into something of which we can all be proud. I am humbled by the support of the Bruin community. We are looking forward to next season when we can get back into Pauley Pavilion with our fans.”
Featured Image: NDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 28: UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin and the Bruins square off against No. Alabama in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)