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Dennis Cutts fired as UCR men’s basketball coach

By in Press Enterprise on January 1, 2018

By Jim Alexander

Dennis Cutts, who had been UC Riverside’s head basketball coach since the 2013-14 season, has been relieved of his duties, the school announced Monday.

Associate head coach Justin Bell, a former UCR player, has been appointed interim coach, beginning with the Highlanders’ Big West Conference opener Wednesday night at Cal State Fullerton.

“There is a need to elevate our men’s basketball program to a more consistent level, to more effectively compete with mid-major Division I programs,” said Tamica Smith Jones, UCR director of intercollegiate athletics, in a statement released by the university Monday. “We need a coaching philosophy that will accelerate our program’s overall success in the Big West Conference, that emphasizes a culture for champions.”

“This was a difficult decision, especially as we make plans to open conference play, but we do feel it is in the best interest of our student athletes’ overall experience and the basketball program’s competitive progress.”

Cutts, who joined the UCR program in 2007 as an assistant to Jim Wooldridge, was named interim head coach in 2013 when Wooldridge was named athletic director, and had the interim tag removed the next season. Jones gave Cutts a contract extension shortly after becoming athletic director in 2015.

Cutts’ record is 50-87, including 23-41 in Big West play. The Highlanders are 5-9 this season, which includes a season-opening upset at Cal. They lost twice on a recent road trip against WAC opponents, a close loss at Utah Valley last Thursday and a 95-71 loss at Seattle Saturday.

The school’s release indicated a nationwide search for a replacement will begin immediately, “with a focus on candidates who have experienced Division I coaching success.”

Jones, quoted in the release, lauded Cutts for his even temperament and for stabilizing the program during his tenure.

“The team has fared better than most programs in retaining its players,” Jones said. […]    

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