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4 potential hires for UCLA basketball’s head coach opening

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Who will replace Steve Alford at UCLA?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA has parted ways with head coach Steve Alford. The school announced assistant Murry Bartow will serve as interim head coach for the rest of the season.

The Bruins made the move to fire Alford after four straight losses, including a most recent defeat against Liberty last weekend. UCLA is now 7-6, but this remains one of the best jobs in the sport.

Expectations are high, but if the Bruins play their cards right, the Pac-12 is there for the taking. The conference has had a lackluster start to the 2018-19 season, and no Pac-12 teams are currently ranked. The right hire could put the Bruins in the right place to take command of the conference for years to come.

So, who is the right hire?

Home Run Hires

Fred Hoiberg

If you’re UCLA, you have to shoot your shot. Make Hoiberg say no, then move on to the other candidates. Hoiberg was fired by the Chicago Bulls Dec. 5 after three plus seasons with the Bulls and a 115-155 record. Before heading to the NBA, Hoiberg spent five seasons in Ames with Iowa State. The Cyclones went 115-56 (67 percent) under Hoiberg, and he took ISU to a Sweet 16 in 2014.

Eric Musselman (Nevada)

With UCLA announcing that Bartow would take over the team for the rest of the season, more options open up. Musselman is one of the up-and-coming coaches in the country. His Nevada Wolf Pack were the darlings of the 2018 NCAA tournament (or at least one of them, alongside Loyola and UMBC), and are one of the four remaining undefeated teams this season with a No. 6 ranking. He has a 94-29 record in three plus seasons in Reno, and has taken the Wolf Pack to the Sweet Sixteen once. The Wolf Pack have won two of the three conference regular season titles and one Mountain West Conference tournament under Musselman.

Could be Interesting

Bobby Hurley (Arizona State)

Hurley is currently the head coach for the Sun Devils, where he’s been for three plus seasons. He has won 55 percent of his games at ASU, including a recent upset of No. 1 Kansas, but the Sun Devils have underperformed in Pac-12 play under Hurley. ASU’s best conference finish under Hurley is eighth (twice), and the Sun Devils haven’t been above .500 in the Pac-12 in the three years with him at the helm. Can’t see that going over well in LA.

Long Shot

Billy Donovan (OKC Thunder)

Donovan could be an interesting hire for the Bruins. He had massive success in college as the head coach at Florida, leading the Gators to back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. He finished his 19 seasons in Gainesville with a 467-186 record before being hired away by the NBA. There’s a weird connection to the NBA as Golden State’s GM, Bob Myers, is helping with the search. Could he open lines of communication?

I Mean, If You Want

Rick Pitino (Panathinaikos, Greece)

For some reason Pitino’s name has come up a fair amount, including on Dan Dakich’s, umm, interesting list. He recently took over Panathinaikos in the Greek Basket League, but his history is full of blemishes off the court. Not sure if that’s what the UCLA crowd is looking for.

Not Gonna Happen

Tony Bennett (Virginia)

Never say never, but the chances of Tony Bennett leaving Virginia for UCLA are about as slim as you can get. Not only does he have a good thing going in Charlottesville (yes, even after that loss), his style and demeanor isn’t a match for LA. Efficient offense and stifling defense are the hallmarks of Bennett’s teams, and I can’t see boosters getting excited for 62-47 games.