Just less than three weeks removed from the departure of Nikki Caldwell, former Florida State associate head coach Cori Close has been named the newest head coach of the UCLA women’s basketball team, it was announced Thursday.
Although it marks Close’s second stint with the Bruins after serving on the staff of then-head coach Kathy Olivier in the 1993-1994 season, it will be her first time in a head coaching position.
“This is just not about me. This is about the wonderful student-athletes I’m going to have a chance to lead,” Close said. “It’s about finding new gears that even (the) ladies don’t know (they) have. It’s a very unique opportunity I have, because this program is not broken.”
During her career with the Seminoles, Close was particularly known for her offensive schemes and will look to tweak the UCLA offense to bring out its best.
“I’m not a person who brings the Princeton or triangle offense every place I go,” Close said. “I really try to look at who we have, especially when you’re building. … Initially, I’m going to have to be very creative to make sure that we are exemplifying our strengths and hiding what weaknesses we have.”
As for the players, the new coaching hire signals the beginning of a new phase in their careers. Last season, the Bruins went 28-5, one victory shy of matching the program’s best record.
“(Close) explained it to us when we first met her that it might be hard to trust again in the same situation,” rising junior guard Mariah Williams said, alluding to the departure of Caldwell. “But I really respected the fact that she looked each and every one of us in the eye and said that all she’s asking for is the opportunity to prove herself. That’s all anyone can ask for.”
Close remained adamant for the time being that she is determined to fill the void to the best of her ability, even if her mannerisms don’t quite resemble those of her predecessor.
“I have said to many people that I will never be able to match (Caldwell’s) fashion sense,” she said. “I know there are some things that Nikki did, and I admire them greatly, but I’m going to have to lead this program in a way that fits my personality and continues to move the program toward its goals accordingly.”