Cronin sixth UCLA men’s basketball coach to receive Pac-12 Coach of the Year award
Coach Mick Cronin led UCLA men’s basketball to a 12-6 record in conference play and the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)
By Sam Connon
March 9, 2020 3:33 p.m.
This post was updated March 9 at 4:10 p.m.
Mick Cronin has yet to lead the Bruins to the NCAA tournament, but he has now done one thing Steve Alford never did.
Cronin took home the John R. Wooden Pac-12 Coach of the Year award for the 2019-2020 season, the conference announced Monday. The first-year coach became the sixth UCLA men’s basketball coach to earn the honor and the first since Ben Howland won it in 2006.
Four of the Bruins’ previous five coaches won the award – which is named after the winningest coach in UCLA history – with Alford being the lone exception.
Cronin’s win is also the third conference coach of the year award of his career, as he won it in the Ohio Valley Conference and American Athletic Conference in 2006 and 2014, respectively. He most recently won the 2018 Sporting News Coach of the Year award after leading Cincinnati to a regular season AAC title.
UCLA got off to a 8-9 start under Cronin this season, but an 11-3 stretch to wrap up the regular season launched the Bruins up to the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
Prior to its win over California on Jan. 19, UCLA ranked 119th in the country with a 0.6234 Bart Torvik Power Rating and No. 151 in the NET rankings. Across its final eight games, UCLA ranked 21st in the country with a 0.8914 Bart Torvik Power Rating and finished the regular season ranked No. 76 in the NET.
Smith, others, earn hardware of their own
Junior guard Chris Smith won the Pac-12 Most Improved Player of the Year award and was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team after leading UCLA in points per game and nearly tripling his scoring output from last year’s conference slate.
Smith averaged 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 35.5% from long range against Pac-12 opponents, despite entering the season with career averages of 5.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game and a 24.7% 3-point shooting percentage.
Freshman guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. was the lone honorable mention for the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team, and redshirt sophomore forward/center Jalen Hill was one of four players to earn an honorable mention for the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.