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Mick Cronin’s new six-year contract expected to make him highest-paid coach in Pac-12

UCLA coach Mick Cronin calls from the sidelines during a game.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin has been given a new six-year contract that runs through 2027-28.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)
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Tear up that contract that’s less than a year old. Mick Cronin now has something much better.

Only hours before his team’s NCAA tournament opener, the UCLA basketball coach was rewarded Thursday with a new six-year contract that’s expected to make him the highest-paid coach in the Pac-12 Conference.

The new deal, which runs through the 2027-28 season, replaces the two-year extension he had signed after guiding the Bruins to the Final Four last year. The previous contract was slated to pay him $3.7 million per year.

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UCLA proactively secured Cronin to the replacement deal after Louisville was believed to have expressed strong interest in the coach who was once an assistant at the school under Rick Pitino. The Cardinals on Friday are expected to announce the hiring of Kenny Payne, a New York Knicks assistant who won a national championship at Louisville in 1986.

UCLA has won eight of their last 10 games to revive their standing as a fashionable pick to get back to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.

March 17, 2022

“Mick Cronin is one of the best coaches in the country, and this deal signifies our commitment to keeping him at UCLA and competing for national championships,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “Mick is the right leader for our program because he knows what it means to represent the four letters, he won’t settle for less than being an elite program, and he wins with integrity. He has done a tremendous job of developing young men, and his players respect him.”

Cronin, 50, has taken the Bruins to the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, and his first UCLA team might have qualified after a late-season surge in which it won 11 of 14 games before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the conference and NCAA tournaments. Fourth-seeded UCLA (25-7) will play 13th-seeded Akron (24-9) in the first round at the Moda Center.

Cronin has compiled a 66-29 record with the Bruins, his team finishing second in the Pac-12 this season after going 15-5 in conference play. He joins Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Kansas’ Bill Self as the only active coaches to have taken their teams to the last 11 NCAA tournaments.

The UCLA Bruins enter the NCAA tournament battle tested after coping with an emergency flight landing, injuries, a COVID shutdown and other hurdles.

March 16, 2022

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“I believe we have created a culture of success and competitive greatness at UCLA,” Cronin said in a statement. “I am totally committed to seeing this process through with the goal of becoming national champions and one of the elite programs in college basketball. I’m grateful for the commitment from UCLA, and in particular to Chancellor [Gene] Block and Martin Jarmond as they trust me to continue leading this program forward.”

Cronin’s 431 career victories are more than any other NCAA Division I coach who is 50 or younger. His teams have averaged 25.1 victories per year over the last 12 seasons.

Primarily known as a strong defensive coach, Cronin’s current team is elite on both sides of the ball, ranking No. 12 nationally in defensive efficiency, according to basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy, and No. 14 in offensive efficiency. UCLA led the Pac-12 in scoring defense (64.8 points per game) while also committing the fewest turnovers (9.2 per game).

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