UCLA's Mick Cronin gets two-year contract extension

Ben Bolch
·3 min read
UCLA head coach Mick Cronin watches from the bench during the first half of a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game against Gonzaga, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Mick Cronin coaches during the Bruins' Final Four game against Gonzaga. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

As a reward for taking UCLA back to the Final Four, Mick Cronin has received a two-year contract extension.

The contract extension will be worth a guaranteed $4 million per year.

The additional years will keep Cronin under contract through the 2026-27 season after he guided the Bruins to their deepest NCAA tournament run since 2008.

Eleventh-seeded UCLA won five games before losing to Gonzaga on a 40-footer at the overtime buzzer in a national semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Bruins (22-10) finished with a No. 7 national ranking in the USA Today coaches poll after having entered the NCAA tournament unranked and on a four-game losing streak.

“In less than two years in Westwood — through seasons disrupted by a global pandemic — Mick has led UCLA men’s basketball back to its rightful place among the nation’s elite,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said. “His leadership has given Bruin Nation a program to be proud of, galvanizing alumni and fans around the world, and it’s only the beginning.

“This extension represents the stability and commitment needed to execute the long-term vision that Mick and I share. The future is bright.”

The extension includes a salary in each year equal to what Cronin will make in the final year of his original contract. Cronin, who will turn 50 in July, signed a six-year, $24-million deal upon his hiring in April 2019, nearly doubling his previous salary at Cincinnati.

“I am extremely grateful to Chancellor [Gene] Block and Martin Jarmond for the opportunity to continue leading the UCLA program,” Cronin said. “I love being at UCLA. The commitment from our players over the past two seasons has been rewarding, especially as we have dealt with some unusual challenges during a global pandemic.”

Picked by the media to finish eighth in the Pac-12 during his first season, Cronin’s team staggered to an 8-9 start that included home losses to Hofstra and Cal State Fullerton. Cronin juggled his starting lineup and the team responded by winning 11 of its final 14 games before the season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UCLA finished second in the Pac-12, one game behind Oregon, and Cronin was selected Pac-12 coach of the year in voting by his conference counterparts.

Predicted to win the Pac-12 this past season, UCLA started 12-2, including eight consecutive victories in conference play. But a loss to Stanford on an inbounds pass at the buzzer started a stretch in which the team dropped three of four games.

Junior forward Jalen Hill left the team in early February, disclosing this week that he was suffering from anxiety and depression. Senior guard Chris Smith was lost for the season with a knee injury on the final day of 2020 and star point guard prospect Daishen Nix never set foot on campus after opting for the G League over one college season with the Bruins.

It appeared as if UCLA might spiral into the offseason after dropping four consecutive games — all after losing late leads — to put itself in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. The Bruins were one of the last teams to be selected, necessitating a First Four game against Michigan State.

After trailing by 14 points in the first half, the Bruins rallied to beat the Spartans in overtime, the result of a return to the smothering defense that has made Cronin the winningest active coach under 50. It was the start of a riveting run that would also include victories over second-seeded Alabama and top-seeded Michigan.

The team could return mostly intact next season, even with Hill’s retirement from basketball. Smith and sophomore guard Johnny Juzang are considered intriguing NBA prospects but could come back to bolster their chances of being selected in the first round of the draft.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.