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Alexander: UCR’s chancellor, not AD, issues explanation for Cutts firing

By in Press Enterprise on January 14, 2018

By Jim Alexander

RIVERSIDE — At least we now have an explanation as to why Dennis Cutts was fired as UC Riverside’s basketball coach in the wee hours of Dec. 31.

It came from the chancellor, Kim A. Wilcox.

In a telephone interview Friday afternoon, he confirmed that he signed off on the decision of Athletic Director Tamica Smith Jones to make that change, and he seems unconcerned that the athletic budget will have to absorb the salaries of two head men’s basketball coaches the next two seasons, the one who’s here and the one who isn’t.

In the course of the conversation, Wilcox expressed his support for Jones — who still hasn’t commented publicly on the firing — and he dismissed the growing concern of a toxic working environment in the UCR athletic department, much of which appears to be of the athletic director’s doing.

If I’m interpreting it right, he also seemed to suggest that any reduction in community support — almost a certainty, given the growing unrest among boosters with the leadership of the program — can be offset by what he considers a growing national profile.

The academic side of the institution may score highly in various national rankings. But if you can explain how a mid-to-lower tier program in a conference that is 18th (out of 32 leagues) in men’s basketball RPI can have a national athletic profile, I’m all ears.

So, why did the coach have to go at midseason?

“You know the record (50-87 under Cutts),” Wilcox said. “It’s far from stellar. But the more troublesome fact is that in most seasons we finish worse than we start. You know athletics as well as I do. You’ve got the same players at the end. If other teams pass you, it’s not because players are better or worse, but more likely the coaching didn’t […]    

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