Sunday, May 24

Court Visions: Qualities to look for in a new coach for UCLA basketball

It’s the first full day that the UCLA is without a men’s basketball coach, and the last won’t come soon.

Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, no stranger to coaching searches, will spend the coming weeks contacting prospective hires across the country. We know how this will go based on the way the search for the last football coach went: Guerrero will promise improvements to the team resources, pitch the reputation of UCLA as a school that can thrive academically and athletically and – maybe most importantly to some candidates – tout a hefty salary. Some will say no before the next coach says yes.

(Side note: While he looks to sign a coach to a new contract, Guerrero’s own contract will expire. It has six days left on it as of this post and these is no indication what Chancellor Gene Block will do when it comes to releasing or retaining the head of the athletic department.)

Guerrero gave brief comments to the media Sunday night after firing Ben Howland, but kept the profile of his ideal candidate close to his chest. Here are a few traits I would like to see in the next coach in charge of the UCLA program:

1) A recognizable name.

This doesn’t have to mean the coach has to come from the upper ranks of college basketball. In fact, he doesn’t even have to come from the world of college basketball. He just has to be someone who has already dealt with the chaos that comes with being an attention-grabbing figure, whether locally or nationally. The newcomer’s every move will be under the magnifying glass of a fan base anxious for success. There won’t be time for introductions before getting to work.

2) A winner.


3) Someone who will stick to his guns.

When it comes to comparing this hire to the last coach, it’s not mandatory that the new guy be the antithesis of Howland. After all, Howland was a very successful coach, but his tenure could have been better. It’s important to remember the good and avoid the bad. As I’ve previously mentioned, Howland strayed from what made him so successful by inexplicably changing his offensive philosophy and recruiting players who weren’t interested in playing his style of defense. Whether the new coach is offensive- or defensive-minded, he needs to have a firm vision based on his system.

4) A forward thinker.

If you have regularly tuned in to Court Visions, you know that my column preaches the gospel of advanced basketball analytics. Game plans don’t have to be matrices and graphs, but the numbers can clarify what your eyes are seeing. When Fortune 500 companies look for edges in competition, they microanalyze their numbers and identify trends to capitalize on. Basketball teams are now doing the same. All 30 NBA teams have analytics departments and many college coaches – from the young Brad Stevens to 63-year-old Jim Larranaga – are reading into metrics that give them an edge. But forward thinking doesn’t have to mean the incorporation of analytics. A coach who can translate the revolutionary offensive and defensive schemes being used in the NBA and translate them to the college ranks would be a welcome change as well.

5) Thick skin.

It would be great to see someone who has fought through some sort of adversity as a coach, since it won’t be easy to rebuild this UCLA program right away. The new hire will have a host of scholarships at his disposal and may have to start with a bunch of newcomers. Instant success may not be easy to achieve.

Email Menezes at [email protected] or tweet him at @ryanvmenezes.

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