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UC Riverside fires head coach Dennis Cutts

Associate head coach Justin Bell will take over the Highlanders three days before Big West play.

NCAA Basketball: UC Riverside at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

UC Riverside parted ways with head coach Dennis Cutts on Monday, a mere three days before starting Big West play.

Associate head coach Justin Bell will take over in the interim, as the Highlanders will embark on a “nationwide search” for their next head coach.

Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tamica Smith Jones cited a need to become more competitive on the Division I level in the official release:

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. 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, a four-year basketball player at Albany, took over the head coaching role in April 2014. Under his direction, the Highlanders went 51-87 and were off to a 5-9 start this year with Big West play looming. Cutts was the fifth head coach for the Highlanders at the Division I level; UC Riverside transitioned from Division II during the 2001-02 season.

UC Riverside’s lone winning season was the 2008-09 season, in which the Highlanders finished with a 17-13 record under former head coach Jim Wooldridge.