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With Help, Guerrero Is Gauging Interest

Times Staff Writer

Athletic Director Dan Guerrero launched what promises to be a drawn-out search for a UCLA basketball coach by cautiously testing the waters Tuesday.

Two Bruin boosters said word was relayed to Roy Williams of Kansas through an intermediary that UCLA is interested in discussing the job with him after the Jayhawks have completed their season.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. March 21, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 21, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
College basketball -- Bill Carmody is men’s basketball coach at Northwestern, not at Princeton, as was reported in a Sports article Wednesday on possible successors to Steve Lavin at UCLA.

Guerrero declined comment, but a source said Rick Pitino of Louisville will be contacted in a similar manner.

Lon Kruger, the most high-profile coach not currently employed, said from his home in Atlanta that UCLA has not contacted him and he has made no inquiries into the job.

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“I wouldn’t rule anything out, though,” he said. “UCLA has a storied tradition and I want to work with good people.”

At the news conference announcing the firing of Steve Lavin on Monday, Guerrero indicated he would not contact any candidate whose team is playing in the NCAA tournament. But somebody loosely affiliated with UCLA could pass word to someone close to a coach that there is interest.

Communication traveling in the other direction -- from coaches to Guerrero -- has been heavy.

“There have been lots of phone calls and e-mails to my office, and faxes from coaches who were anticipating [the opening],” Guerrero said. “There is obvious interest out there. My responsibility is to ascertain interest. It’s likely we might have contact [this week] with candidates not in the tournament.”

That could start with Kruger, who plans to be in Oklahoma City this week watching Arizona State in the NCAA tournament. His son, Kevin, is a redshirt with the Sun Devils.

Kruger, 50, fired by the Atlanta Hawks last fall, was 318-233 in college stops at Pan American, Kansas State, Florida and Illinois.

His teams made nine NCAA tournament appearances and his 1994 Florida squad reached the Final Four.

“When you’ve done something all your life in a competitive way, you can’t turn it off right away,” he said. “I’m interested in anything that’s challenging, and it’s more about the people you’re doing it with than anything else.”

He has been linked to Georgia should Jim Harrick get fired, but he said there has been no contact with the Bulldogs.

Other coaches whose names have surfaced are expressing interest -- even while their teams prepare for the tournament. Mark Few of Gonzaga, Rick Majerus of Utah and Brad Holland of San Diego all indicated they would take a call from Guerrero.

However, Williams and, perhaps, Pitino are the first targets, although knowledgeable sources in Lawrence and Louisville are convinced neither coach will leave for UCLA.

Certain Bruin boosters are pushing for Mike Montgomery of Stanford, Bill Carmody of Princeton and former Chicago Bull and Iowa State coach Tim Floyd.

But the front-runner is considered to be Ben Howland of Pittsburgh, who has strong West Coast ties as well as a glowing resume. Intermediaries already have gauged his interest, sources said, and while Howland might try to strike a hard bargain, he is believed to want the job.


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