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Pac-12 Basketball: Meet The League’s New Head Coaches

California, UCLA and Washington State have all hired new coaches to front their programs.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA-Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

California Golden Bears - Mark Fox

Coaching Experience: The fifty-year old Mark Fox has compiled a 286-176 overall record in his fourteen seasons as a Division I head coach, which has included stays at Nevada and Georgia. From 1991-2004, the Garden City, Kansas native was an assistant at Washington, Kansas State and Nevada. He was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and he has been to the NCAA Tournament five times in his head coaching career. Fox was fired by Georgia after the 2017-2018 season, after three seasons of missing the big dance.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Georgia
Mark Fox won at least 18 games in each of his final five seasons at Georgia.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

West Coast Ties: Fox’s time at Nevada and as an assistant at Washington gives him some relative ties to recruiting bases on the West Coast. Prior to being hired as the head coach at Nevada, Fox worked under one-time Stanford head coach Trent Johnson (who’s coming back to the work with Fox at California). While with the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs, Fox recruited on a national level, targeting prospects from both coasts.

Style & Players: Historically, Fox’s teams have been known for athletic play-makers that thrive within shuffle and two-guard motion sets. A fair amount of pick-and-roll concepts were common during his tenure at Georgia, usually anchored by one high-scoring, ball-dominant guard. Some of Fox’s NBA alumni includes Ramon Sessions (2007), Nick Fazekas (2007), JaVale McGee (2008), Armon Johnson (2010) and Luke Babbitt (2010) from his time at Nevada and Travis Leslie (2011), Trey Thompkins (2011) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2013) from his days at Georgia.

UCLA Bruins - Mick Cronin

Coaching Experience: A Cincinnati native who looked ready to stay leading the Bearcats program for many years to come, Mick Cronin’s surprise move to UCLA ended a very successful thirteen-year run at his alma mater. Cronin hasn’t missed an NCAA Tournament since 2010 and over the past three seasons, he’s averaged a stunning 29.7 wins per campaign, despite a relative lack of success in the big dance. He’ll now be tasked with leading a disjointed but hungry Bruins program that’s won over 25 games in a season just once since 2014.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Temple
UCLA’s Mick Cronin will join Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley as one of the league’s more enjoyable coaches to watch on the sideline.
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

West Coast Ties: Based off his resume alone, you’d be hard-pressed to know if Cronin even knows that life exists beyond the Mississippi River, as he’s never coached outside of his native Ohio or nearby Kentucky. His recruiting ties also run deep into those areas, as through the years, he’s pressed hard to find gritty players to fit his style from cities up-and-down the eastern seaboard and throughout the mid-Atlantic states. Establishing some west coast ties may be a challenge for the 47-year old head coach.

Style & Players: Gritty, hard-nosed, sometimes antagonistic and always tough as they come, over the years, Cronin has developed a very “throwback Big East” style of teams that leave you both bruised and beaten after a full forty minutes of action. Sometimes referred to a sub-par offensive coach earlier in his career, those detractors have mostly disappeared after Cronin revamped Cincinnati’s style to be a bit more open and motion-based over the last handful of seasons. Some of Cronin’s notable next-level alumni include Lance Stephenson (2010) and Sean Kilpatrick (2014).

Washington State Cougars - Kyle Smith

Coaching Experience: The interesting thing about Washington State’s hiring of Kyle Smith is that for all the success the 49-year old has had as a head coach, he has yet to find his way to the coveted NCAA Tournament in nine seasons. However, Smith is revered as one of the more unique basketball minds that may be a perfect fit for the Cougars athletic department. In his past three years at San Francisco, Smith revitalized the Dons program with a 63-40 overall mark and three straight 4th place finishes in the WCC. Prior to his stay in the bay area, Smith led Columbia for six campaigns to a 101-82 record, which included a CIT Championship in 2016.

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at Gonzaga
Washington State wanted a “system” coach. They found one in Kyle Smith.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

West Coast Ties: An assistant coach at San Diego (1992-2000), Air Force (2000-2001) and Saint Mary’s (2001-2010), you’d be surprised to find out that Smith is actually a Maryland-native who played his Division III college basketball in upstate New York. Obviously, his roots on the west coast run deep after more than two decades on coaching staffs on this side of the Rockies.

Style & Players: Welcome to the “Nerdball” era. If you’re not sure what exactly that means well then don’t worry about it, because it’s actually a bit easier to comprehend than it really sounds (at least for fans and not for coaches). Essentially, Nerdball is a system that uses heavy and interesting modern-day analytics to determine the statistical figures deemed relevant by the coaching staff on a daily basis. In terms of X’s and O’s, expect a lot of elbow series with Princeton concepts incorporated for high-volume and prolific guards, with blue-collar bigs thrown in the mix.