Calling it ‘the best place,’ UCLA’s Mick Cronin touts college basketball over NBA G League

UCLA head coach Mick Cronin jokes with players.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin jokes with players in the final moments of their 67-47 win over Abilene Christian.
(Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

The NBA G League snatched Mick Cronin’s first high-profile recruit, signing point guard Daishen Nix for a reported $300,000 only months after he had signed a letter of intent to join Cronin as part of his rebuilding efforts at UCLA.

This week, with his team in the midst of a stirring NCAA tournament run, Cronin struck back.

First, the Bruins coach dismissed the notion of a partnership between college basketball and the NBA.


“All I would say is, let’s not act like we’re all on the same team,” Cronin said Thursday as his 11th-seeded Bruins prepared to face second-seeded Alabama on Sunday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Cronin also touted the benefits of spending at least a year in college as opposed to pocketing some quick money before heading into the NBA draft.

“College basketball has been a free farm system for 40 years for the NBA,” Cronin said, “and it is and will always be the best place for a young player to develop.”

In only his second season at UCLA, Mick Cronin has been able to bring the best out of his players, similar to what he did at Cincinnati.

March 25, 2021

To bolster his point, Cronin mentioned the value of assimilating with college teammates and being developed while experiencing a college campus.

“The experience is second to none and I believe it’s the best basketball development that somebody’s going to get,” Cronin said. “That’s just my belief; it doesn’t mean that I’m right. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but like I said, I’m well aware that in midtown Manhattan [in the NBA office] they’re not real concerned with my opinion and that’s OK. … I don’t think Adam Silver is concerned; he works for 30 owners and they’re all capitalists, as they should be.”

Nix has not wowed with G League Ignite, averaging 8.8 points, 5.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds while making 38.4% of his shots. He has made only 17.6% of his three-pointers.

Cronin made it clear that he harbored no bitterness toward Nix.

“Look, this is America, man, it’s capitalism,” Cronin said, “so I’ve got nothing but love for Daishen, I wish him nothing but the best, but as far as the NBA, they’re worried about the NBA.”