UCLA fired men's basketball coach Steve Alford on Monday following a tumultuous tenure that hit its breaking point with a pair of embarrassing non-conference losses.
While Murry Bartow will serve as interim head coach for the rest of 2018-19, the search for the program's next coach has already begun. Which coaches would jump ship from their current programs to take on the pressure and hype Alford never lived up to in Westwood? Here's a look at five potential candidates.
Eric Musselman, Nevada. The 54-year-old is everything this program needs. He's up-and-coming, having catapulted a power mid-major program from the Mountain West into national relevancy thanks to last year's Sweet 16 finish and top-five ascension this season. He's got the coaching chops (in the NBA and overseas) that prove he can do more than recruit (a noted flaw that Alford seemed to show). Given that he's been able to lure top talent to Nevada, he probably wouldn't struggle on the recruiting trail with a storied program like UCLA. Best of all, the charismatic Musselman is media friendly and could sway the hard-to-win-over donors and alumni.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State. While he's got less of a personality than Musselman and is more apt to stay put now that the once mid-major Shockers have joined the American Athletic Conference, Marshall will likely be in high consideration given his track record in piloting Wichita State to extremely solid NCAA tournament success (outside of last year's first round exit, that is). When Marshall was coaching the Shockers to the Final Four in 2013, he was being considered for the role that Alford eventually won. Marshall's proven himself even more in the time since, leading WSU team to a nearly-undefeated season in 2014 and another Sweet 16 trip in 2016. Marshall brings a grittiness to the table and would instill a tenacious style of play that would give the Bruins a backbone they've lacked for quite some time now. And he's taken rosters of two-star players and junior college transfers to the NCAA's final weekend. Thinking of what he could do with five star-caliber talent is undoubtedly intriguing.
Fred Hoiberg, unemployed. The former Chicago Bulls coach will be at the top of the leaderboard for some time given that he's not coaching and had way better success at the college level while leading Iowa State to deep NCAA tournament runs before leaving for the NBA. College coaches that don't pan out in the NBA (ahem, Rick Pitino) usually are quickly forgiven when a desperate program (ahem, UCLA) is in need so if some of the home run hires or long shots don't pan out, Hoiberg and his laid-back demeanor and NBA style offense might be out on the West Coast by the spring.
Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder. A long shot, but there's a chance the NBA life has worn on Donovan and he misses the college basketball world he dominated while guiding the Florida Gators to back-to-back titles in the 2000s (and continued NCAA tournament success after that). Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers is a top consultant in UCLA's coaching search, which could given athletic director Dan Guerrero a shot at this unlikely hire.
Tony Bennett, Virginia. Another long shot, but an interesting one nonetheless. That's because a fanbase that is craving a high-octane offense would be graced with a slow-tempo and ridiculously disciplined one should Bennett surprisingly leave the program he's elevated to elite status at UVA. Bennett's Virginia teams have led the nation in defense plenty over the course of the last half decade and he's brought the Cavaliers ACC hardware over typically-more talented Duke and North Carolina squads. While it seems unlikely Bennett would take on the pressure tied to a program that still has John Wooden's shadow cast over it, it would surely be an enticing challenge for any top-10 coach in the sport. And even if UCLA is looking for more glitz and glamour, Alford was an offensive-centric coach so perhaps a defensive-oriented coach who has shown great class (right after a No. 16-over-No. 1 seed upset, no less) would be the right fit to mix it up and start meeting the towering expectations in Westwood.
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