UCLA’s Mick Cronin looks to build on success

(News4usonline) – The UCLA men’s basketball program didn’t reach its goal of making it to the NCAA Tournament title game, but the Bruins are in good hands for the near future. Despite falling short in their ultimate quest of being the top team in basketball, the Bruins have Mick Cronin leading the way for them. And that’s a good thing.

That’s because the Bruins should be in good hands for the next six years after handing Cronin a six-year extension to remain as the team’s head coach. Two Sweet 16 appearances and a Final Four run in three seasons leading the Bruins have given Cronin a lot of equity with the university.  

“Mick Cronin is one of the best coaches in the country, and this deal signifies our commitment to keeping him at UCLA and competing for national championships,” said Martin Jarmond, the Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics at UCLA “Mick is the right leader for our program because he knows what it means to represent the four letters, he won’t settle for less than being an elite program, and he wins with integrity. He has done a tremendous job of developing young men, and his players respect him.”

In three short seasons, the UCLA men’s basketball program has posted a 68-30 record. After leading the Bruins to another deep postseason run, Cronin appears to be the right man for the job. This year’s version of the UCLA men’s basketball team went 27-8 and advanced all the way to the Sweet 16, where the Bruins bowed out of the NCAA Tournament to North Carolina. 

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – MARCH 18: Marcus Bingham Jr. #30 of the Michigan State Spartans defends Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the First Four round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Mackey Arena on March 18, 2021 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Under Cronin’s leadership, UCLA basketball has progressed tremendously. Taking over in 2019, Cronin was named the John R. Wooden Coach of the Year and led the Bruins to a second-place finish in the Pac-12.

Unfortunately, the NCAA Tournament was canceled that season during the Covid-19 pandemic. Cronin and the Bruins followed up their impressive 2019-20 campaign by taking the Bruins to the Final Four last season. It would take an overtime defeat to Gonzaga to end UCLA’s season.

Prior to his gig in Westwood, Cronin ran a respectable program at Cincinnati. The Bearcats appeared in the NCAA Tournament in Cronin’s last nine consecutive seasons at the helm. This run established him in the ranks as one of the best college coaches in the nation, ultimately helping him land the UCLA job.

“I believe we have created a culture of success and competitive greatness at UCLA,” Cronin said. “I am totally committed to seeing this process through with the goal of becoming national champions and one of the elite programs in college basketball. I’m grateful for the commitment from UCLA, and in particular to Chancellor Block and Martin Jarmond as they trust me to continue leading this program forward.”

Cronin only made the Sweet 16 once during his time at Cincinnati. He’s already done it twice with the Bruins. Cronin wants to build on the culture of success at UCLA and aspires to bring a title to Westwood. The Bruins appear they are on the right track. However,  they’re going to have to kick it into another gear if they want to win their first national championship since 1995.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 30: Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Franz Wagner #21 of the Michigan Wolverines in the Elite Eight round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“I came to UCLA to try to get this 12th title and I’m not gonna leave until I do,” Cronin said in his press conference after UCLA’s most recent exit from the tournament.

Coaching for a historic program like UCLA is proving to help Cronin get deeper into the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins simply have more national recognition than Cincinnati does in college hoops. UCLA will most likely be one of the top landing spots for top high school players during the rest of the Cronin era due to the early success during his tenure.  

Cronin and the Bruins had hoped to get back to the Final Four and perhaps go even further than what they did last year last spring, but the Tar Heels had something to say about that.  

Despite their exit from the tournament loss, back-to-back Sweet 16 births will not go unnoticed by potential recruits. Winning is important but winning when everyone is watching matters more. In his short tenure with the Bruins, Cronin has brought a winning formula to the Bruins.

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – MARCH 18: Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins grabs a rebound against the Michigan State Spartans in the First Four round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Mackey Arena on March 18, 2021 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

UCLA will likely lose either or both of Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. to the NBA draft. Tyger Campbell could return for one more season. However, Peyton Watson, a five-star recruit who did not get much playing time this past season, could emerge.

Cronin has reestablished the basketball program, and he should have no trouble recruiting more talented players in the future.

“We practice under the pyramid of success and true greatness is giving your best effort… (our players) have restored UCLA to the national scene,” said Cronin.

Featured Image: INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 28: 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)