Every single day thousands of UCLA students stream down the Hill, walking to class. Every single day thousands of students roam Bruin Walk and study in Royce Hall. Every single day thousands of students pass by the beloved Pauley Pavilion. And every one of these days, these students pass by the statue of our legendary, renowned head coach John Wooden. It leaves me wondering one thing: Can Mick Cronin fill these shoes and truly be our next Coach Wooden?

Mick Cronin was born on July 17th, 1971 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cronin has always had a love for basketball and has played for as long as he can remember. As a 5’3” high school point guard, Cronin led the city in assists, was second in three-point shooting percentage and earned all-city honors in basketball at LaSalle High School. However, after an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), his playing career was sadly forced to end. But, Cronin didn’t let this obstacle get in the way of the game he loves. 

After high school, Cronin attended his hometown school, the University of Cincinnati. While accompanying his father, a coach at the University of Cincinnati, on a scouting mission to Cincinnati Woodward High School, Cronin was offered a job coaching the freshman team and serving as a varsity assistant coach. In his short tenure there, Cronin accumulated a very impressive record of 57-3, leading Woodward to three city championships. Additionally, Cronin helped develop six players who would go on to play Division I basketball. Coach Cronin was officially born. 

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 1996, Cronin remained at the University as a video coordinator, eventually being promoted to assistant coach. Cronin worked there until 2001 and very quickly gained the reputation of being able to elevate and recruit top talent. Cronin was soon offered the job of recruiting coordinator and associate head coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino and in his first year he attracted a top ten recruiting class. By 2003, Cronin was ready for his first head coaching position at Murray State. In three seasons here, Cronin led the Racers to two NCAA tournament appearances and was named the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year. By 2006, Cronin returned to his alma mater to be the head coach and face of Cincinnati basketball.

Cronin arrived at the scene to find a relatively depleted basketball program, with scarce recruiting in the past year. Cronin’s team was so understaffed that he was forced to recruit future NFL linebacker Connor Barwin from the Cincinnati football team to play for the basketball program. Cronin’s team may have struggled early on throughout his tenure, but he quickly righted the ship. By the end of the 2017 season, Cronin had amassed a 166–63 record, spent 45 weeks ranked in the AP Poll, and reached 6 straight NCAA Tournaments, while picking up 4 NCAA Tournament wins. During this period, Cronin’s legendary recruiting record held up once again. In the 2009-2010 season, Cronin recruited Lance Stephenson to the team, a player who had just become the all-time leading scorer in New York state high school basketball history. During his one season at Cincinnati, Stephenson was named the Big East Rookie of the Year and later had NBA stints with multiple teams. In Cronin’s most successful season as head coach, he led 6th seeded Cincinnati to a win over 3rd seed Florida State in 2012. This allowed the Bearcats to reach the Sweet 16, while recording their only ever win over a higher seeded team in tournament history. It is safe to say that Cronin left his mark on this university. 

Leaving Cincinnati was a difficult decision for Cronin. On one hand, the school felt like a home to him. But on the other hand, Cronin couldn’t turn down the opportunity that he was presented with. That opportunity was to become head coach of one of the most legendary and historic basketball programs in the world. He was honored to be yet another successor to the almighty John Wooden and write his name down next to some of the UCLA greats.

In his introductory press conference with UCLA, Cronin revealed how excited, overwhelmed and thankful he was to be given this opportunity. He wasn’t sure that this day would ever come. 

“Yesterday was the toughest day of my life professionally – telling the team that you love you’re leaving,” Cronin said. “I never thought I’d have that meeting, to be honest with you. I never thought that day would come, that I’d ever have to have that meeting. But, 11 National championships, having the best players, graduating elite student-athletes, all of the above is at your fingertips here. I understand it’s a tremendous challenge – tremendous challenge. But it’s also a great opportunity. And one that I was not going to pass up. Because I came from a situation obviously where I was at home. We had great success. But I had a chance to be the coach at UCLA. Let’s be honest. The chance to be the coach where John Wooden coached. This is not a hard decision. To be named the head basketball coach not only at John Wooden’s program and UCLA but to be named the head basketball coach at the world’s foremost No. 1 public institution is an unbelievable, incredible honor for me. So I’m overwhelmed a little bit. But, trust me, I’m prepared. You’ve got to embrace it. You only live once.” 

Cronin’s first year as head coach was off to a shaky start, however he was able to eventually turn it around. The Bruins went on to win 11 of their final 14 games, en route to a second place finish in the Pac-12. Once again, the basketball community took note of Cronin’s coaching abilities as he was awarded Pac-12 Coach of the Year and NABC District 19 Coach of the Year honors. The Bruin’s ended the season as one of the top rebounding teams in the nation and had three straight victories against ranked opponents, giving the UCLA fanbase a taste of what was yet to come. Furthermore, one of the most promising aspects of this season was seeing the player development that is capable in the hands of Cronin. Chris Smith earned the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player of the Year award and Tyger Campbell’s safe, smart and reliable basketball performances were encouraging to see after his freshman year ACL injury. Cronin and his fiery demeanor made it clear in his debut season, the future is bright.

Cronin’s second season served as a complete revival of UCLA basketball. He led the Bruins to a 22-10 regular season record, but, after a disappointing Pac-12 tournament the Bruins finished fourth in the conference. Luckily enough, UCLA was granted a play-in game to the 2020-2021 NCAA tournament, allowing Cronin to make history. Cronin became one of five coaches to lead their team to all 10 of the past NCAA tournaments, joining the elite company of Mark Few, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and recently retired Roy Williams. This tournament run proved to be historic, as the Bruins went on to upset Brigham Young University (BYU), Alabama, Michigan and eventually suffer a heart-breaking, buzzer-beater loss to Gonzaga. 

In a press conference after this legendary run, Cronin had a message for the nation as he declared that UCLA basketball was finally here to stay.

“Nobody picked us,” Cronin said. “Nobody believed in us. And that’s how we like it.”

Cronin and the UCLA basketball team are hungrier than ever to show the world what this basketball program is made of. And, after last season, they are starting to get the recognition that they deserve. Keeping in theme of Cronin’s elite player development, UCLA had a trio of selections to the year-end All-Pac-12 team in 2020-21, including Tyger Campbell (first team), Jaime Jaquez Jr. (second team) and Johnny Juzang (second team). Juzang was arguably the nation’s biggest breakout star and is ready to run it back this 2021-2022 season under Cronin’s tutelage. 

Cronin is entering his third year as The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach, with a cumulative coaching record of 406-196 (.678 win percentage), in the Bruin’s most highly anticipated season in recent memory. Entering the season as the nationally ranked number two seed, UCLA had an electric overtime victory over 4th ranked Villanova, proving to the nation that the Bruins mean business. UCLA will look to dominate the Pac-12 this year and hopefully compete for a national championship in March. A highly anticipated final four rematch between UCLA and Gonzaga is right around the corner this Tuesday, as UCLA looks to rewrite the history books and steal away that number one ranking in the nation.

This UCLA basketball team is full of depth but also possesses elite scorers and lockdown defenders. The Bruins are serious contenders this year, but this reign will look to continue years down the line under Coach Cronin’s guidance. Cronin has the team playing a quick paced offense this year, spreading the wealth around and getting their various sharpshooters as many looks as possible. On the other side of the ball, Cronin has the team playing aggressive defense, featuring more full court-press than previous years. The team’s movements and rotations are looking strong and all signs point to NCAA success. Cronin is strategically utilizing his large inventory of weapons, making UCLA one of the more, if not most, dynamic and lethal teams in the conference and nation. 

While hopes are high for this season, Cronin’s elite recruiting and talent development paired with the love and care he has for each player should enable the Bruins to be a basketball powerhouse for years to come. He has fostered a unique basketball environment here, one in which will certainly attract future stars down the line. Cronin has turned the likes of Johnny Juzang, Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez Jr, and Jules Bernard into elite college basketball players. Who’s to say what he can accomplish with 5 star recruit Peyton Watson this year or 5 star recruits Amari Bailey and Adem Bona next year? While winning is starting to become synonymous with his name, Cronin’s hallmark recruiting abilities have reestablished this basketball program, and established it with the intentions of longevity. Last year’s Final Four run was very exciting, but Cronin knows his job isn’t done yet. He yearns for that 12th National Championship and he has the weapons and basketball expertise to bring it home to Westwood. Maybe one day he can get a statue right next to John Wooden, because Cronin and UCLA basketball alike are here to stay.

Life as a professional athlete is very different from life as a corporate employee, particularly financially. As an athlete, you get your money on a reverse trajectory from the norm. A draft or signing bonus would be more than enough to constitute the ordinary person’s retirement fund, mortgages, and future childrens’ college funds. However, without careful consideration, that money can be, and often is, gone before they know it, leading to a life of financial ruin and regret.

A Sports Illustrated statistic states that a staggering 78% of all National Football League (NFL) and 60% of all National Basketball Association (NBA) players will declare bankruptcy within 1 and 5 years of retirement, respectively. The NFL is at the forefront of this growing dilemma due to their incomparably low average career lengths. In the three years or less than the average pro career lasts, NFL players make an average of $2 million per year. Athlete Essentials, a wealth management firm that caters to athletes, acknowledges that most NFL draftees are too young and immature to acquire such large amounts of money, as well as they being unequipped to manage or save that money to last. These young athletes, who often come from nothing, suddenly enter a world in which they have just been handed more fame and money than they ever could have imagined. Many tend to fall into a lavish lifestyle characterized by million-dollar cars, mansions, parties, and more. But by the third or fourth year of their careers, many players begin to struggle to live up to their lifestyle’s lavish standards as their signing bonus begins to dwindle. Before long, many athletes have begun living well beyond their means and are desperate for another paycheck. 

Furthermore, athletes tend to overproject their own levels of success, which can quickly lead to financial ruin. If a talented athlete is expecting a second multi-million dollar contract to be waiting around the corner, there is a fairly decent probability that they are going to squander most of their first deal. This can be exponentially more detrimental when an athlete gets injured. With the way the NFL contracts are structured, a large percentage of athletes’ salaries are non-guaranteed, meaning that if a player has a devastating career-ending injury, there is very little that can be done. These players, expecting to make millions of more dollars over the course of their careers, find themselves with very few options and oftentimes large amounts of debt. And don’t forget, only about 50% of players in the NFL have their college degrees, while the other 50% might struggle to find a future job somewhere else. While you might see established NFL stars such as Tom Brady walk in wearing a $12,000 suit and pricier watch, it is starting to become evident that athletes like him represent the minority, not the majority of the leagues. 

The lack of financial guidance that the NFL fosters is almost entirely liable for this situation. There is very little systemic support offered within the NFL offices and very little financial mentorship offered by staff or even players. This poor financial decision-making is often passed on from generation to generation, furthering this endless cycle. 

However, the NFL has begun implementing programs and guidelines in order to educate and assist all of the athletes that enter the league. The NFL has begun encouraging young NFL players to budget their initial paychecks until they are sure they will have steady income down the line. Additionally, the NFL is urging all athletes to hire a financial advisor to help manage spending habits and maximize their investment portfolios. NFL safety Glover Quinn, recently decided to store away 70% of his post-tax income with the intention of being able to live comfortably and support his family through retirement. This is the type of financial planning that the NFL is encouraging and believes will save the future of countless players. The NFL doesn’t want these young athletes to ignore the urge to splurge, but they want them to do so in a controlled, advised manner. While these players might enjoy competing with each others’ extravagant lifestyles and purchases, it isn’t sustainable and would be disapproved of by any reasonable financial advisor. 

While the NFL is beginning to incite change on the professional level, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has to be more prepared than ever to do the same. With the recent Name, Image, Likeness Laws that passed across the NCAA, which allows for student compensation, younger athletes than ever will be coming into very large amounts of money. These college students have been given a platform, and depending on the school and popularity of the sport, have the potential to earn millions of dollars in income ever before playing a professional second of sports. These athletes are even younger and have less experience managing money than professionals, but the NCAA and its new initiatives are on it. 

In a recent survey published in the Journal of Athlete Development and Experience, every athlete that participated responded that they would benefit from learning financial literacy and education. Over 60% of the athletes hadn’t received any source of financial education in high school and only 9% had since met with a financial advisor. It is also said that very few students knew about the NCAA’s existing financial literacy instructional videos, however, they are in the process of getting those videos more attractive. Additionally, the NCAA is working on making financial training available through videos, tips via text message, workshops just for student-athletes, meetings with a peer counselor, book recommendations, mandatory classes, and seminars, and even through an app on your phone. Corporate partners are very enthusiastic and willing to come to talk with athletes about budgeting, establishing credit, and planning financially for their future, and it is proving to be a necessary step for all young athletes. 

While thousands of athletes have been forced to declare bankruptcy, the major professional and college sports associations are working tirelessly to prevent this in the future. These athletes are handling significant amounts of money at increasingly young ages, and it is incredibly important that they are responsible for it. With the help of financial literacy lessons and advisors, hopefully, the financial state of retired/injured athletes will begin to improve. This is a very serious issue within the industry, and the governing bodies like the NFL and NCAA are finally starting to treat it as so.

It is once again that time of year. Football season is winding down and basketball season is revving up. Soon enough there will be thousands of students lining up outside of Pauley Pavilion waiting three-plus hours just to get inside. Camping out in line will all be worth it to see the basketball team, adorning their fresh Jordan brand jerseys, lacing up their new, clean white kicks, and starting off a season overrun by lofty expectations. After last year’s historic final four-run, the UCLA men’s basketball team is hungry to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.

 The 2020-2021 regular season campaign was a tumultuous one in which the Bruins lost All-Conference First Team senior Chris Smith to injury. Additionally, they went on a late losing streak in January and saw themselves get eliminated from the PAC-12 Tournament in the semi-finals to an overperforming Oregon State team. However, UCLA was ready by the time tournament season came around. They ultimately looked like an entirely different team, a team that was firing on all cylinders. A team that was led by Mick Cronin’s impressive coaching and Johnny Juzang’s lights-out shooting. That’s the team that every Bruin fan is anxiously waiting and hoping to see come firing out of the gates this 2021-2022 season. 

After only losing two players from last year’s roster, both of which had already been phased out of the Bruin’s roster rotation midway through the season, the Bruins bring back an entire starting lineup and supporting cast that is stacked on paper and full of chemistry. 3rd-year student and floor general Tyger Campbell makes his return to captain last year’s 11th most efficient offense in the nation. Additionally, Campbell looks to lead the team in assist rate (30.2%) again while averaging 13.7 points and 4.7 assists per game in the late stages of the tournament. Campbell’s high level of basketball IQ and ability to control the pace and play of the game make him a valuable asset to the Bruin’s starting five.

Few players in the country will enter this 2021-2022 season as touted as Johnny Juzang himself. After flirting with the idea of entering the NBA draft, Juzang ultimately decided to run it back with the Bruins and the student body couldn’t be more grateful. After an abysmal shooting performance all season, Juzang broke out in the tournament and his hands got hot, falling just four points shy of setting UCLA’s all-time record for most points by an individual in the tournament, 141 versus 137. All eyes are on Juzang this year as the rest of the country wonders if he is capable of leading this Bruins team on yet another deep tournament run as he also vies for the Naismith College Player of the Year honors.

While Johnny Juzang is certainly the star, none of UCLA’s success would be possible without his right-hand man, the team’s leading rebounder Jaime Jacquez Jr. Additionally, Jaime Jaquez led the team in minutes played, starting all 32 games, producing 21 double digit performances and averaging marks of 15.0 points, 6.3 boards, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Jaquez maintained the highest offensive rating on the team and is prepared to be a serious contributor this year as well, hopefully en route to a second final four appearance and maybe a national championship. 

After a shaky start to the season offensively, Jules Bernard really kicked into high gear later on. Bernard ended the season with nine double-digit games in the final 12 and helped improve the Bruin’s spacing and defense while providing reliable ball control in place of Campbell and Juzang. In his final season as a Bruin, Bernard hopes to hold on to his starting lineup spot but has a bench with high star recruits eager to take his place. 

The Bruin’s center position will almost certainly be filled by Cody Riley, however, he is going to have to perform to keep his starting role. After playing and starting in 31 games last year, after being used in a higher percentage of possessions than anyone else on the roster, and after tallying 19 double-digit nights, Riley has secured his job. However, nobody would be surprised to see Cronin mix up the lineup at some point in this season as he is anxious to debut four-star Rutgers transfer, Myles Johnson. Johnson has become a highly anticipated transfer due to his status as one of the deadliest shooters and rebounders of all Big 10 posts. The recent graduate transfer logged an impressive 68.2% shooting clip while averaging 8 points and 8.5 rebounds. Johnson and Riley will make a very formidable, strong defensively, and reliably offensively center duo.

The Bruins bench and role players are chock full of athletes ready to contribute to the team’s success. David Singleton is ready to serve as an elite shooter and defensive wing for the team. Jake Kyman is prepared to hit his threes and hopefully continue with some of the success he found in big moments his freshman year. Jalen Clark had a very impressive second half of the season. He is emerging as one of the conference’s youngest, best, and most reliable defenders and is said to have improved drastically on offense this offseason. Clark should see an expanded role on this team and will hopefully be able to capitalize on it. 

Arguably the most highly anticipated UCLA Bruin would be the incoming recruit, 5 star Peyton Watson. Watson was the highest-ranked basketball player in the state of California and courtesy of his 6’8” stature will be competing for minutes at forward. Watson is expected to be offensively and defensively and is a projected lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft. Hopefully, he is able to restore UCLA’s athletic glory and bring a national championship to Westwood before he is drafted. Additionally, with recent commitments from the class of 2022, the Bruins seem to have success on the basketball horizon. Bringing in two top 20 players from the national rankings, the Bruins will be led by 5-star recruits Amari Bailey and Adem Bona. This wave of success will only further improve UCLA’s commits and lockdown talented players from the class of 2023 and 2024. Mick Cronin and the Bruin’s look to be in the midst of rebuilding the UCLA basketball dynasty and it all starts with this year. Sitting at number 2 on the preseason power rankings and with expectations of a Pac-12 championship and deep tournament run, this season is certainly going to be one for the ages. Four’s Up! Let’s go win a national championship.