Cori Close to coach UCLA

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA introduced Cori Close as its new women's basketball coach during a news conference on Thursday, ending a national search that lasted three weeks.

"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," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said in a statement.

Close replaces Nikki Caldwell, who took the LSU job on April 4. Caldwell was 72-26 in her three seasons in Westwood, leading the Bruins to the NCAA tournament twice. Close spent the previous seven seasons as associate head coach at Florida State. Before that, she spent nine years at UC Santa Barbara, including three seasons as associate head coach.

"It's a very unique opportunity I have," Close said. "This program is not broken. This program has tremendous talent. It has developed new momentum and I have the wonderful privilege of taking the baton, building on that and helping find new gears of excellence that have already been set in motion."

Close graduated from UCSB in 1993 after majoring in sociology and was the recipient of UCSB's Distinguished Senior Award. She was a member of the UCLA's coaching staff for two seasons (1993-94 and '94-95) while working on her master's degree in educational administration from UCLA. Close is enshrined in the UCSB Athletics Hall of Fame.

Close likened her philosophy to the ongoing renovation of Pauley Pavilion, saying she's looking to preserve the foundation Caldwell built. UCLA, which went 28-5 last year and was ousted in the second round of the tournament, has finished in second place in the Pac-10 Conference the past two years. The Bruins return a talented group that includes Jasmine Dixon, Atonye Nyingifa and Markel Walker.

"They have done a great job the last several years of building some amazing foundations," said Close, as her new players looked on. "You have all sacrificed, you've built discipline, you've been great defensively and you've been rebounding the basketball in a way that I've watched from afar and admired. We don't want to lose that. We want to preserve that and enhance that."

ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report. Blair Angulo covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com.