There was a poster, both motivational and ubiquitous in its nature, that hung on many classroom walls in the 1990s.
“Shoot for the moon,” it said. “Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.”
It’s a nice message to send developing minds. But it’s a bit of an oversimplification of the real world, where so many circumstances can alter that moonshot.
Take UCLA. After flirting with John Calipariand attempting to lure him away from Kentucky, it appears they’ll settle on a backup plan of Jamie Dixon. Sources tell ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that contract talks are underway with the current TCU head coach.
The Bruins also gauged the interest of Virginia’s Tony Bennett.
Now, Dixon is a fine coach, but one of these three things is not like the other. Dixon’s teams have finished in the final AP Top 25 poll once since 2010. He’s not exactly a stud recruiter. He’s steady, but not a needle-mover.
The question now for UCLA is a tough one. One looks at the job and the candidate and wonders if the program couldn’t do better. At least that’s the gut reaction. With some reflection, though, it’s more like can the program do better?
It’s a humbling thing for a program fiercely proud of its tradition. But Steve Alford didn’t translate to much and never sniffed Ben Howland’s success. The blue and gold chose to look for greener pastures rather than the one where they grew three Final Four trips. What they’ve found is pretty harrowing.
Maybe this is as good as it gets right now. And maybe the hire, if finalized, will prove to be a great fit. Or maybe we’re in the same place five years later trying to figure out what UCLA’s place is in the college basketball pecking order.