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UCLA hires Tennessee's Caldwell

April 18, 2008|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Throw out the welcome mat for another key member of Tennessee's national champion women's basketball team.

UCLA on Thursday hired Nikki Caldwell as head coach of the Bruins, a program that finished a disappointing 16-15 last season and has only one 20-win season since 1998-99.

Caldwell, who was an assistant coach under Pat Summitt for six seasons and helped guide the Lady Vols to back-to-back titles, agreed to a five-year deal that will pay her about $300,000 a year.

"I'm so excited about coming to UCLA and having this new beginning," Caldwell said. "I obviously feel very committed to coming in here and us building and us moving in the right direction as well."

Last week, the Sparks welcomed Tennessee star Candace Parker, their No. 1 draft pick. This time it was Caldwell's turn to be the top pick. UCLA athletic officials interviewed her Friday in Dallas and again on campus Wednesday.

"We just felt this was the right person at the right time to lead the women's program to the next level," said Petrina Long, assistant athletic director for the Bruins. "She was our top choice hands down."

Known for her recruiting and skill at designing game plans, the former standout guard at Tennessee began her coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Lady Vols.

She worked as an assistant at Virginia from 1999 to 2002 before being hired again by Summitt.

Caldwell replaces Kathy Olivier, who resigned after 15 years as the Bruins head coach.

"My patience has definitely paid off," said Caldwell, whose teams during her 14 seasons as a player and assistant coach were 404-76. "This has been such a great fit for myself and hopefully for the institution."'

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dan.arritt@latimes.com

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