UCLA exits the Pac-12 tournament; time for the Bruins to hire Tony Bennett and reignite the Pac-12

LAS VEGAS — One by one, the UCLA players exited T-Mobile Arena, walked slowly down a ramp and boarded the team bus. One hour after a forgettable season ended in listless fashion, the door closed, the engine roared and the bus rumbled away into the cool Nevada night.

Now, it’s time for the Bruins to back up the truck.

One of the most storied programs in college basketball must make every effort to hire the coach most likely to return UCLA to its proper place on the sport’s pantheon.

Whatever it takes, whatever the wait, whatever the cost, UCLA must hire Tony Bennett.

If he says no, then the Bruins should come back with another million. And another.

Bennett, coach of the second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers, would pay for himself in two years — three, tops.

And if money somehow became an obstacle, the Pac-12 should offer to cover the difference.

This isn’t just a critical hire for UCLA. It’s momentous for the conference, too.

One could argue, in fact, that the next six weeks will help frame the state of basketball in the western third of the country for years to come.

The top programs in the Pac-12 are at parallel crossroads:

UCLA, with its search for a head coach.

Arizona, with the uncertainty swirling around its head coach.

The Wildcats and Bruins own eight of the conference’s last 10 Final Four berths — and all of its national championships over the past half century.

They are the Pac-12’s flag-bearers, its primary points of resonance for college basketball writ large.

And both should have their futures shaped by the end of April.

Arizona’s situation is more complicated, and the outcome less clear, because of coach Sean Miller’s connection to the Federal corruption case.

What did he say on the wiretap? Did he discuss payments to players? And what’s the threshold for dismissal?

The trial for which Miller reportedly will be subpoenaed is scheduled to begin April 22. But what if there’s a settlement, Miller never takes the stand and the contents of the wiretap never become public?

And what of the NCAA component — the likelihood that Arizona will be investigated and Miller sanctioned for transgressions committed by his staff under Bylaw (Former assistant Book Richardson has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.)

Either way, the Federal corruption cloud choking the program for 18 months should disperse by the end of April, bringing clarity to Arizona’s future.

For the Bruins, it’s a matter of hiring the right coach.

That’s easier typed than done, of course. But one candidate stands above all others.

Bennett makes $4.1 million per year at Virginia, according to the USA Today salary database.

How does that translate to the Bruins’ budget?

UCLA paid $12 million to make Jim Mora go away and $23 million to make Chip Kelly appear.

It collects approximately $11 million per year in cash from Under Armour.

Benefactors Casey Wasserman and Mo Ostin have written checks for tens of millions for facilities in recent years.

Fundraising is thriving.

The balance sheet is clean.

Money cannot be the reason Bennett says no.

If $5 …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News


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