Cori Close, who has coached in 15 consecutive NCAA basketball tournaments, was named head women’s basketball coach, UCLA Athletics announced Thursday.
UCLA's new head women's basketball Coach Cori Close
This is the first head coaching job for Close, who has worked as associate head coach or assistant coach on teams that have advanced to the NCAA tournament in each of the last 15 seasons. Most recently, she served as associate head coach at Florida State University, where she helped guide the Seminoles into a nationally recognized program in seven seasons there.
“There was no shortage of terrific candidates for this job,” said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. “But in the end, we landed the person who fit us to a T. Cori is an outstanding coach and an outstanding teacher, and she is a person who possesses the character and the integrity that we like to see in our coaches here at UCLA. She has been a part of successful programs everywhere she’s been throughout her career, not only as a player but also as a coach.”
It is a happy homecoming for Close, who began her collegiate coaching career at UCLA in 1994, serving in the role of restricted-earnings coach on the first staff of then-head Coach Kathy Olivier. Close is also an alumna, having earned her master’s degree in educational administration during her two seasons on the UCLA coaching staff.
“UCLA is such a unique place,” Close said during the press conference announcing her hire. “It’s about family, service, impacting young people, great tradition. It’s about creating avenues for habits of excellence for young people to discover who they are, so they’ll be better equipped for life. UCLA has a powerful name and a powerful path to excellence, but it’s the substance that makes it unique and special.”
Close is taking over the job recently vacated by Nikki Caldwell, who left UCLA for a head coaching position at Louisiana State University.
“I have a lot of respect for what Nikki and her staff did here the last several years,” Close said. “I’m a UCLA fan, so I have admired and respected and celebrated the steps that have been taken in recent years. ... I really see the momentum. I see the shift, not only in ways the program is perceived, but also in the attitude of the players and where they want to go with their dreams. And so I really want to take the baton.”
Former Wooden basketball player and Olympic Gold Medal winner Rafer Johnson and Nan Wooden, Coach John Wooden's daughter, were with Close at the press conference announcing her selection.
Before joining the FSU staff, Close spent nine seasons (1995-2004), the last three as associate head coach, at her alma mater, UC Santa Barbara. There, she concentrated on overseeing skill development of the players, on-court offensive coaching, recruiting and scheduling. As a player, Close was a four-year starting point guard at UC Santa Barbara and captain of the 1992 and 1993 teams, which each advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The move back to California is especially meaningful for Close, who shared a long-lasting friendship with Coach John Wooden that started in 1994 when she was on staff at UCLA. When she got the Florida State job in 2004, Close said that her new coworkers were aware of how deeply Coach had influenced her. She arrived at her new office and found that her FSU colleagues had taken all the things Coach had given her over the years, matted them and hung them on the walls.
“And I loved it. I get to talk about it all the time and tell players and other people how he impacted me,” Close said. “I am thrilled, humbled, excited and driven to re-matte that group of photos and things in Bruin blue-and-gold and put it in my office here at UCLA.”