UCLA's stifling defense helped them to record-breaking success under former coach Nikki Caldwell. Newly hired coach Cori Close might add a new dimension. Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.
As a California native and self-proclaimed fan of UCLA women's basketball - who got choked up during this afternoon's press conference - the hire is a natural fit.
"Cori has always been close to the UCLA program, from her years working at UCSB and her relationship with Coach Wooden," said UCLA Hall of Famer and current Phoenix Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale in a release. "I look forward to Cori continuing the ideal of being a Bruin, to doing your best and striving to bring a national championship back to UCLA."
A former UCLA graduate assistant from 1993-1995, Close spent the previous seven seasons as an associate head coach at Florida State University, serving as their "offensive coordinator". BasketballScoop.com suggests her impact on the Seminoles has been easily recognizable.
Cori Close - Associate Head Coach - Florida St. " BasketballScoop.com
A demanding, detail-oriented and offensive-minded coach, she has proved to be the perfect compliment to head coach Semrau and her staff. The easiest correlation between Close’s arrival and Florida State’s success has come in the form of an unprecedented run of five-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and six postseason victories during that stretch...Her ability to prepare information and disseminate it to the players has been a perfect recipe for success.
It will be most interesting to see how Close's offensive expertise influences the Bruins' style of play - Close inherits a Bruins team that was last in the Pac-10 (all games) in 3-pointers made (63) and ninth in 3-point field goal percentage (27.4%), which means their offense could become choppy at times if an opponent collapsed in the paint. However, Caldwell was not afraid to make a game ugly and focus on keeping Bruins' opponents "outside of their rhythm" and they managed to maintain a reasonable scoring efficiency by forcing a conference-high turnover differential and scoring in transition.
At least one advantage that Close has is that UCLA will return the majority of their rotation, including Jasmine Dixon who was 10th in the conference in scoring and fourth in offensive rebounding. With her player development expertise - including work with 2010 WNBA first-round draft pick Jacinta Monroe of the Washington Mystics and Roneeka Hodges of the San Antonio Silver Stars at FSU - Close appears well-prepared to lead UCLA to further succss.
"Cori has established herself as one of the top women’s basketball associate coaches in the nation and is certainly ready to take the next step," said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero in a release today. "Cori has enjoyed great success at Florida State and UC Santa Barbara, on the court, off the court and on the recruiting trail, and has a great vision for the future of our program. She will continue to build upon the foundation that has been established over the last few years."