In his 13th season in Div. I basketball, Jim Saia (pronounced SIGH-a) begins his seventh year as the senior assistant coach on the UCLA staff. Two of Saia’s primary duties are coordinating offensive strategy and directing UCLA’s recruiting efforts.
It has been a successful six seasons for UCLA with Saia on the Bruin coaching staff. UCLA has advanced to the NCAA "Sweet 16" five of the last six years. In Saia’s first year at UCLA (1997), the Bruins won their third consecutive Pacific-10 title and advanced to the NCAA "Elite Eight". During all six seasons, UCLA has advanced to the NCAA Tournament and won over 20 games, including back-to-back 24-game victory years in 1997 and ‘98.
In 2002, the Bruins finished second in the Pac-10 in field goal (47.2) and three-point (39.0) shooting percentages. In 2001, UCLA in the final conference statistics was second in three-point field goal percentage (35.5) and offensive rebounds (per game, 13.78) and third in scoring offense (79.5). In 2000, UCLA led the conference in field goal percentage (48.0, No. 16 in NCAA Div. I team statistics), was second in three-point field goal percentage (37.1) and offensive rebounds (13.55) and third in assists (16.52).
Saia’s Bruin coaching successes have carried over into recruiting. His recruiting talents have assisted UCLA in landing the nation’s No. 1 (2001/1998) and No. 2 (1997) ranked recruiting classes.
Before coming to Westwood, Saia was the head coach at Columbia College, a junior college in Sonora, CA, from 1994-96. During his two-year head coaching career at Columbia, he led the Claim Jumpers to a 61-10 (87.0) overall record, two Central Valley Conference (CVC) championships and he earned two CVC Coach of the Year honors. In 1996, Columbia advanced to the Final Eight in State junior college play and ended the season ranked No. 3 with a 30-5 overall record. Saia’s ’95 club was rated No. 7 in the State and finished with an overall record of 31-5. His two-year conference mark was 25-3. Every sophomore on Saia’s Columbia teams have graduated or pursued their education at a four-year college. When Saia took over the Columbia program in 1994, the Claim Jumpers had no returning starters and he only had six weeks to recruit a team. His 1994-95 squad, picked for last place in the coaches’ preseason poll, finished with a 31-5 overall record.
Prior to his head coaching stint at Columbia, Saia, 38, was an assistant coach at the Div. I level for Gary Colson at Fresno State (1990-94, earning a Master’s degree) in the Big West and Western Athletic Conferences, Tates Locke at Indiana State (1989-90) in the Missouri Valley Conference and Lou Campanelli at California (1988-89) in the Pacific-10 Conference. During his years at Fresno State, the Bulldogs in 1994 were 21-11 overall and advanced to the NIT and in 1991, FSU was runnerup in the Big West Tournament. While at Cal in 1989, the Golden Bears were 20-13 overall and also played in the NIT.
In 1994, Saia was head coach of the Athletes In Action USA team and in 1993 he coached AIA’s Div. I summer tour squad.
A respected clinician, Saia was director of the Fresno State Camp from 1990-94 and has toured the country lecturing at clinics about individual offensive and defensive skills.
As a player, Saia’s basketball career began at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, CA. In 1981 and ‘82, Saia’s junior and senior prep years and as a teammate of Bruin head coach Steve Lavin, Sir Francis Drake was 65-1 overall and won two California State championships. From 1982-84, he played at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and helped lead the Mustangs to a 20-win season. Saia spent the 1984-85 college season at College of Marin in Kentfield, CA, leading the Mariners to the State Tournament and earning All-Conference honors. He concluded his college career at Chapman University, again on the same squad with Lavin. From 1985-87 at Chapman, Saia earned Best Defensive Player and Coaches Awards.
Born June 15, 1964 in San Francisco, Saia is single.