Wanted: Experienced basketball coach at UCLA


Tuesday, March 18th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


LOS ANGELES (AP) _ UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero went in one direction when he hired a football coach. He expects to go the opposite way in the search for the Bruins' next basketball coach.

``It's likely we're going to hire someone with excellent head coaching experience,'' said Guerrero, who began contacting candidates Tuesday.

Steve Lavin was fired Monday after seven seasons in which he failed to get the Bruins to the Final Four despite reaching the NCAA tournament's final 16 five times in six years.

Guerrero said he wants the next coach to run ``a program that offers a level of consistency and gives us the best opportunity to get to the Final Four and hopefully give you the opportunity to compete for a national championship.''

Lavin was a 32-year-old graduate assistant when he was made interim coach after Jim Harrick was abruptly fired in November 1996.

In December, Guerrero hired career assistant Karl Dorrell nine days after firing football coach Bob Toledo. Dorrell, 39, was one of three NFL assistants who were finalists.

For UCLA's first basketball coaching search in 15 years _ since Harrick was hired in 1988 _ Guerrero said, ``There is no favorite. We'll bring in someone of magnitude who deserves to take the mantel.''

Among those Guerrero plans to consult is 92-year-old John Wooden, who coached UCLA to 10 NCAA championships before retiring in 1975. Guerrero also wants any finalist to interview with Chancellor Albert Carnesale.

``He needs to have the confidence in me that the right person is selected,'' he said.

The first-year athletic director said he won't talk with any coaches while they are participating in the NCAA tournament and won't seek permission from athletic directors before their teams have lost.

Guerrero won't say who he's talking to. He doesn't expect to hire someone before the Final Four ends April 7.

He began receiving e-mails, phone calls and faxes from individuals anticipating Lavin's firing when UCLA's season unraveled several weeks ago.

``There's obviously interest out there,'' he said. ``I don't have a list of coaches yet.''

Names that have popped up as potential candidates include Ben Howland of Pittsburgh, Mark Few of Gonzaga, former NBA and college coach Lon Kruger, Rick Majerus of Utah, Pat Douglass of UC Irvine, Roy Williams of Kansas, Mike Montgomery of Stanford and Rick Pitino of Louisville.

Guerrero interviewed Howland and hired Douglass when he was athletic director at UC Irvine.

Howland and Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown have expressed satisfaction with where they are now. Former UCLA athletic director Peter Dalis contacted Pitino in 2001 about replacing Lavin, but it didn't happen.