UC-Riverside parts way with Cutts

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A new year is bringing a new coach to UC-Riverside.

Dennis Cutts, who is in his fifth season with the Highlanders, has been replaced as coach, the school announced Monday.

“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,” Riverside director of intercollegiate athletics Tamica Smith Jones said in a statement. “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 went 50-87 overall and 23-41 in Big West play during his tenure at UC-Riverside. He’s been at the school since 2007 when he arrived as an assistant. He is being replaced by associated head coach Justin Bell on an interim basis.

“We are confident that Coach Bell and the remaining coaches on staff are equipped and committed to leading our young men toward peak academic and athletic performance throughout this period of transition,” Jones said in a statement.

The Highlanders are 5-9 this season with wins over California, Air Force and Valparaiso. They begin Big West play Wednesday at Cal State Fullerton.