For Mick Cronin and Andy Enfield, success could lead to calls to coach elsewhere
Their phones could ring soon, Mick Cronin and Andy Enfield knowing the point of the inquiry should their caller IDs show Louisville, Ky., or College Park, Md.
Coach Cronin, we’d like to gauge your interest in becoming the next coach at Louisville.
Coach Enfield, how would you feel about coming home to Maryland?
For UCLA and USC basketball fans, the hope is their respective coaches treat any appeals to leave Los Angeles as junk calls. The departure of either coach would be a loss far more excruciating than any setback in the rivalry game Saturday night at a sold-out Pauley Pavilion.
They are widely considered two of the hotter names on the coaching market given what they have done for their programs.
Cronin, 50, guided UCLA to a Final Four in his second season while restoring the Bruins to blue-blood status.
Enfield, 52, took USC to its first Elite Eight in 20 years while compiling the winningest six-year stretch for any coach at the school.
Only three of UCLA’s top players have been part of a victory over USC. The Bruins will try Saturday to end a five-game losing streak to the Trojans.
Each has been selected the Pac-12 Conference’s coach of the year, Cronin winning the award for his first season with the Bruins before Enfield snagged the honor last season.
Their overlapping success has made college basketball fashionable again in a town dominated by championship-hoarding professional sports teams. When the Trojans beat the Bruins last month at a sold-out Galen Center, it was the first time they had met while both nationally ranked since 2007.
The winner of Saturday’s showdown between the No. 17 Bruins (22-6 overall, 14-5 Pac-12) and No. 16 Trojans (25-5, 14-5) will secure the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament, with a chance for a similarly lofty seed in the NCAA tournament.
While both coaches appear to be perfect fits for their current jobs — Cronin oozing his admiration for UCLA’s tradition, not to mention the L.A. weather, and Enfield becoming the standard-bearer for USC’s success — the lure of the openings across the country is undeniable.
Louisville plays in the basketball-crazed Atlantic Coast Conference, features a rabid fan base and resides in a 22,090-seat arena that is consistently packed when the team is winning. It was also the place where Cronin apprenticed as an assistant under Rick Pitino for two seasons before landing his first head coaching job at Murray State.
Maryland would provide a homecoming for Enfield, who was born less than two hours away in southern Pennsylvania, played collegiately at Johns Hopkins in nearby Baltimore and spent two years completing his MBA in College Park. The Terrapins boast a more storied tradition than the Trojans, having appeared in a Final Four in 2001 and winning a national championship in 2002 under Gary Williams.
There’s also the prestige factor to consider. Maryland basketball comes with a cachet that USC can’t match while being massively overshadowed on its campus by the football team.
Nearing the end of his ninth season at USC, Enfield has made clear he’s pleased with the program’s climb to a perennial contender. No Pac-12 team has won more conference games than USC over the last five years, and the arrival of a top-10 recruiting class next season should only solidify the Trojans’ elite status.
But the prospect of stepping into a ready-made hoops haven, where fans cram the arena for every home game, is expected to be something Enfield would seriously consider should he be extended an offer.
Predictably, neither Cronin nor Enfield would say much about possible interest from other schools. Cronin recently said it would be “wildly inappropriate” to comment on any job opening. Enfield, when asked last week if he’d been contacted by Maryland, said only that rumors of outside interest meant “our coaching staff and our players have done a good job.”
UCLA and USC have rewarded their coaches with recent extensions that might need sweetening to keep them in place. After last season’s NCAA tournament run, Cronin received a two-year extension worth a guaranteed $4 million per year that runs through the 2026-27 season. Enfield quietly received a three-year extension after last season that goes through the 2025-26 season, though the terms were not made public.
Even if Louisville and Maryland look elsewhere for their next coaches, Cronin and Enfield figure to be in the conversation for any top college jobs that come open.
Asked how he would respond if another school pursued Cronin, UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond sounded ready to put up a fight.
Hernández: USC fizzled in front of a packed house, but the Trojans are still worth watching
USC’s basketball team remains one of Los Angeles’ best-kept secrets and could stay that way a bit longer after an ugly home loss to No. 2 Arizona.
“Mick has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program,” Jarmond told The Times. “He’s one of the best coaches in the country, not only because he wins with integrity, but also because he knows how to get the best out of his athletes and he cares about their development as people. I know Mick has tremendous respect for the four letters. I believe his best days are ahead of him here in Westwood, and I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that.”
Similar support from USC’s Mike Bohn hasn’t gone unnoticed by Enfield. The coach regularly has expressed appreciation for his athletic director, who told The Times earlier this season that Enfield had “established himself as an elite coach.”
“They always said, if you build it, fans will come,” Enfield said this week. “Well, we’ve been winning for seven years, and it’s nice to finally have this program being recognized by our students and our administration.”
It’s a calling that could lead to a call, beginning the cycle anew.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Pauley Pavilion.
On the air: TV: ESPN; Radio; 570, 790.
Update: UCLA desperately wants to end its five-game losing streak against USC, the Bruins’ longest slide in the rivalry since the 1940s. “We’ve got to put our life on the line,” UCLA senior guard David Singleton said. Topping the Trojans likely will require a better defensive effort on guard Drew Peterson, who scored 27 points during USC’s 67-64 victory last month at the Galen Center that came with star forward Isaiah Mobley sidelined. Cronin said there was a 50-50 chance that leading scorer Johnny Juzang could play after missing the last 2½ games with a sprained right ankle.
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