Former Gaucho star Close named coach at UCLA

Cori Close, one of the all-time great women’s basketball players in UCSB history, who twice captained the Gauchos to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, has been named the new head women’s basketball coach at UCLA.

Close replaces Nikki Caldwell, who left to take the job at LSU.

Close is returning to the school where she began her college coaching career after graduating from UCSB in 1993. She was on the Bruins’ staff in 1994 and 1995, working in the role of the restricted earnings coach while earning a master’s degree.

She returned to UCSB and became the associate head coach under Mark French. Her duties included overseeing skill development of the players, on-court offensive coaching, recruiting and scheduling. Under Close’s coordination, UCSB undertook one of the most demanding non-conference slates in the country each season.

“Cori has as good a grasp on what the total college experience is all about as any coach in the country,” said French in a statement “Anyone who comes to UCLA to play for her will get everything possible, the total package, that the university has to offer. Somewhere Coach Wooden is smiling today because I know that Cori kept in touch with him over the years.”

Nan Muehlhausen, coach Wooden’s daughter, was in attendance at the press conference for Close on Thursday.

As UCSB’s player development coordinator, Close significantly contributed to the mentoring, nurturing and motivation of the student-athletes. Her work led to such achievements as a 98 percent graduation rate, seven WNBA players, 15 professional players overseas, 12 Big West Conference MVPs, nine district All-Americans and one second-team All-American.

During her time on the Gaucho bench, UCSB made eight NCAA appearances, including three second-round games and a trip to the Sweet 16, one NIT consolation championship and won 10 Big West Conference regular season or tournament championships.

Close spent the last seven seasons as associate head coach at Florida State University. She helped build the Seminoles into a nationally recognized program. FSU ranked among the nation’s top 30 teams in scoring, field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage the last two seasons.

This past season, Florida State posted a 24-8 record, finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an 11-3 mark, was ranked No. 20 in the final ESPN/USA Today poll and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after matching the program’s best tournament seed ever at No. 3. The 2010 FSU squad captured a share of the ACC regular season championship, set a school record with 29 wins and advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

“Cori is one of the finest up-and-coming associate coaches in America,” Florida State head coach Sue Semrau said in a press release. “She has tremendous experience and everything you would want in a head coach. She has passion for her players, passion for the game, the university and the community. I can’t think of anybody who would be a better fit for UCLA than Cori Close.”
Close has coached in 15 consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

“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 at the press conference. “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.”

Said UCLA legend Ann Meyers Drysdale, a Bruin Hall of Famer and four-time All-American: “Cori has always been close to the UCLA program, from her years working at UCSB and her relationship with Coach Wooden. 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.”

From Petrina Long, UCLA Senior Associate Athletic Director/Senior Women’s Administrator: “Cori is a great fit for UCLA. She has enjoyed great success throughout her career and possesses all the tools to keep our program at a high level. She is thrilled to be coming back to Westwood and we are excited to have her back.”

As a player, Close was a four-year starting point guard for the Gauchos. She was a 1993 first-team all-Big West selection and the MVP of the 1993 conference Tournament. She captained two teams that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Close was the first player in school history to record more than 1,000 points and 500 assists for a career and ranked among the top 10 in seven Gaucho statistical categories. She averaged a school-record 8.3 assists per game in 1993 which was among the top 10 marks in the nation that season.

On April 30, 2005, Close was inducted into the UCSB Athletics

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