UCLA sad to see Nikki Caldwell geaux

At first, it seemed like some cruel April Fools joke that arrived a day late.

Nikki Caldwell -- the face of UCLA women's basketball -- leaving town? Psh, get out of here.

But it was true: Caldwell had packed her bags to become the head coach at Louisiana State. Just like that, three years of discipline, accountability, school records and NCAA tournament appearances were gone.

"UCLA is a special place in so many ways," Caldwell said in a statement. "I will forever be indebted for the opportunities that UCLA has afforded me. Dan Guerrero is one of the elite athletic directors and it has been a privilege and an honor to work with this administration. They did all they could to keep me at UCLA and I appreciate those efforts."

Said Guerrero said in a statement: "I met with Nikki earlier this week and made her what we felt was a very attractive multi-year offer to keep her in Westwood. It was our hope that Nikki would want to continue building what she has started at UCLA and we did all we could to make that desire a reality."

Caldwell had already left her mark in just three seasons:

  • 72-26 record (.735)

  • two NCAA victories

  • a school record for regular-season victories (26)

  • a school record for scoring defense average (55.3 points)

  • a program-best No. 3 seeding in the NCAA Tournament

And just a few days ago, Caldwell appeared giddy about her situation at UCLA:

Guerrero said he would immediately begin a national search for Caldwell's replacement. The Bruins still figure to be competitive with Jasmine Dixon, Markel Walker and Atonye Nyingifa returning and the highly regarded class of Justine Hartman (Brea, Calif./Brea Olinda), Kacy Swain (Temecula, Calif./St. Bernard) and Sheila Boykin (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) coming in.

“This team has been an example of what hard work and perseverance represent," Caldwell said. "Although I was brought in here to teach them, I have been able to learn so much from them. I only wish for the best for this program and this institution and I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to coach here."