Bruin Blue's thoughts on someone, who some are looking at as the Rasputin of UCLA football. GO BRUINS. -N
Who is this man, and why is he apparently wielding such incomprehensible influence in our athletic department? He has been here two years as the defensive coordinator, and we know his results. Solid improvement in the defense last year, little if any improvement this year, even with ten starters returning. Overall results mixed; some fine efforts, particularly against conventional, pro-style offenses. Some very poor efforts, mostly against spread offenses. End result of his tenure--a 13-12 record. Not all his responsibility, of course, since he wasn't the head coach, and the offense was mostly worse than the defense. But since football is a team game, a great coordinator is usually able to make some kind of difference in the overall record. How many esteemed coordinators do you know who were part of a program with a .500 record?
Well, one can argue the relative merits of Mr. Walker as a defensive coordinator. But how has he managed to parlay this brief record into a position where he is not only a significant candidate for head coach even though he was part of the failed regime, brought in by the head coach who just was fired? How has he managed to somehow apparently convince the athletic director that his retention at least as defensive coordinator is not only essential, but mandated? How has he managed to attract supporters so visible that they have been pushing for his promotion since the beginning of the season, and have now started a web site dedicated solely to enhancing his image? And how has he obtained such a friend in the media as Brian Dohn, who not only is openly supporting his hire, but is seemingly slanting his every comment to help Walker?
Some might say that he has managed this because he is such a great coach, and such an inspiring leader. Others might think that there are other reasons; that much of this has been carefully orchestrated by Walker himself, and that at least some of those who are providing this promotional support for him are hoping to cash in on the access to Walker if he becomes the Bruin coach. Motives probably are varied, but the whole thing is very unsettling, at least to me.
Here we have a coaching search which Dan Guerrero is attempting to conduct under the tightest cloak of secrecy. And yet now we are starting to read all sorts of things about how Walker is or is not approving of a certain coach. That he would be happy to work with Chow, but not with Brian Kelly. We are reading that Walker is a candidate for jobs where he never ultimately interviewed. Every time there is an opening or potential opening on the West Coast, we hear that Walker is a prime candidate. And now we suddenly read in Dohn's blog that June Jones is very interested in the UCLA job, but that he wants to bring all his assistants, and Guerrero is committed to keeping Walker. Now, where did Dohn get such information? Did he make it up? That's hard to believe. Certainly Guerrero didn't tell him, nor did Jones or anyone else in his camp. Can you imagine Jones, on the cusp of the most important game in the history of Hawaii football, with tens of thousands of Islanders caught up in the excitement, not only negotiating with UCLA, but letting this information leak out? And I seriously doubt that any of Geerrero's very small group assisting him with this search is leaking it, either. What possible good could it do anyone?
Except--that writing something like this can only hurt the chances of Jones and UCLA ever striking a deal. As I am writing this, Jones may be forced to utter a public denial, which could very much hurt the entire process, much as Peter Dalis foolishly admitting that he had talked to Rick Pitino essentially killed any chance of Pitino coming here. So did someone who very much wanted to enhance Walker's image and also his chances, leak it? Or was it Dohn himself who decided to print something which would do that? My first reaction when seeing it was incredulity that UCLA could possibly make Walker's retention more important than hiring a top-level coach for this position. My second was, as the attorneys like to say, cui bono? Who benefits? And clearly it is Walker, once again. If it becomes general knowledge that no head coach candidate can possibly keep or bring in his own defensive coordinator, then that may well eliminate any credible candidate, and leave only Walker, and his personal favorite, Norm Chow, who would presumably stay only a few years, allowing Walker to take over.
Is Walker that clever and that able to manipulate the athletic director and selected media, into allowing him to accomplish his ends? Is this all my imagination? Is Dan Guerrero going to finally stand up and hire one of the several proven head coaches who it is now obvious are very interested in this job? Or has he already promised Walker that he will be retained; and therefore ths search, while perhaps conducted in ostensible good faith, is already predestined to come to an inevitable conclusion--the hiring of Walker, or Chow, with Walker the virtual co-coach? Rest assured that if the retention of Walker is absolutely a requisite for the new coach, we are very unlikely to be able to hire anyone with a pedigree. No one would come here when the clear writing on the wall was that Walker was more important that he was; that no matter how poorly Walker might do, or how much he might disagree with Walker. he had no power to fire him; and that Walker would surely keep his own power base here, which might well be used to undermine the head coach's authority. Whether Walker would do that or not is not the issue (you're welcome to your own opinion on that). The issue is that this is what any intelligent and successful head coach would think; and that this situation could almost assure that none would come here, leaving (once again) Chow and Walker.
I would like to think that all of this is just my fancy, born out of the uncertainty and anxiety of this search process. But I would still like someone to explain all of the "leaks" which always favor Walker; the endless articles about how UCLA is a very unappealing job; the comments about how this prospect or that one has been eliminated because of money or personality. I am now pretty well convinced that if Walker's retention were not a mandate for the new coach, that we could get one of three or four very strong candidates to be our head coach. If we do not, it is either because the Athletic Director has with absolutely incredible foolishness (I'll use a nice word at this stage), put DeWayne Walker above the relative merits of his coaching prospects; or that a disinformation campaign coming from somewhere has systematically eliminated and discouraged all the good candidates. It might well be the fodder for some serious investigation--except that this isn't politics, it isn't world affairs; and all we want is for UCLA to hire a really good coach, not suffer through another miserable five to fifteen years with nothing but our anger and our theories.
- Bruin Blue