The UCLA Bruins have won one national championship since 1975, a far cry from the school that holds the record of 11 titles.
The Bruins job, complete with a motivated fan base, inspiring history, and the sunny shores and clear skies of California weather, should be one of the easiest sells in the country for athletic director Dan Guerrero. However, the expectations set by legendary coach John Wooden could also make new hires uneasy. The Bruin fanbase want UCLA back in the Final Four and contending for a title, which would be a very difficult task for nearly any new coach.
Guerrero is now perusing the nation for top coaches of all ages and experience levels, with many coming from mid-major schools, and hopes to fill the void by Ben Howland's firing earlier this week.
Since 2009, the Bruins have failed to advance past the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, after making three consecutive Final Fours.
UCLA will have their pick of an eclectic group of coaches. Some have had success in a relatively short period of time, one an NBA defensive guru, and another has long ties to the Bruins.
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If the Bruins really are interested in Smart they better act fast. Virginia Commonwealth has reportedly made a very lucrative extension offer to the 35-year-old coach, who took the Rams to their only Final Four appearance in 2011.
As reported by USA Today on Wednesday, the deal could triple Smart’s salary from $420,000 to $1.2 million a season, and would increase his recruiting and travel budgets.
That same report pointed out Smart's decision to stay with VCU, over offers from North Carolina State and Illinois in the past.
Going in the direction of former Bruin assistants, Gottfried spent eight years on the bench at Westwood, and is reportedly favored by the UCLA boosters, according to SNY.tv.
The 49-year-old N.C. State coach also instilled the teachings of UCLA legend John Wooden, during his two seasons with the Wolfpack. The Charlotte Observer also pointed out the $3.75 million buyout clause in Gottfried’s current contract.
He was able to put together a solid recruiting class this past season, while competing with perennial in-state powerhouses Duke and North Carolina, and went to the Sweet 16 in his first year.
Donovan is a huge longshot considering his success and the amount of money it would cost to pry him away from Gainesville. Donovan is the only coach rumored for the job that has actually won a national title, and can already lure recruits to a warm climate with a rabid, supportive fan base.
Still, the Los Angeles Times said he is one of the most favored candidates.
Few turned Gonzaga from a mid-major Cinderella to a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament.
Some could say Few is one of the reasons the tournament has become such an upset-laden spectacle, with teams around the country believing they to can succeed even if their school lacks a winning history.
In 13 seasons in Spokane, Few has the second highest winning percentage amongst active head coaches in the nation, and Gonzaga has made the tournament every season under his leadership.
Along with Smart, Stevens is viewed as a favorite, due to his age (36), and how he essentially built up the Butler program from nothing. The Bulldogs made two straight national championship games with Stevens at the helm, but with the backing of UCLA’s sizeable basketball coffers, he could bring the Bruins their 12th championship.
Over five seasons, Butler has gone 166-49 under Stevens, with four Horizon League regular season titles.
One draw back is job security. Stevens faces little pressure at Butler if he loses, since expectations aren’t nearly as high, while he could be fired from UCLA if he struggles in his first few years.
Abruptly fired from the Los Angles Lakers, the OC Register pegged Brown as a dark horse candidate that could be a huge hit for the Bruins. The Register cited his son playing in the L.A area, along with his NBA experience as a reason for why he could haul in top recruits.