Bruin Blue serves up another delicious post to set up what could be a memorable week in Bruin football. GO BRUINS. -N
So much has happened in the last 48 hours that I feel worn out, but hopeful. I am disappointed that we lost the Texas game, because I actually thought we had a small chance to go undefeated; but the earlier injuries have made our rotation unsettled, and we are not in top physical form yet. Even so, we probably should have won. I have no worries that we will be extremely good come conference and of course March. Our basketball program is truly the least of my worries!
Now, as to football. We are truly at the climax of this five year struggle. It has been miserable, and very frustrating at times; but it finally happened, and we all had some part in it. It's not that anyone takes a gleeful pleasure in it, but the removal of Karl Dorrell from our football program was absolutely necessary. If the administration had listened to some of us, this hire never would have been made, because it had almost no chance of succeeding, despite what some of Dorrell's apologists and other pollyannas might say. Dorrell was completely unqualified for the job, was extremely stubborn as well as self-interested, and set UCLA football back even further than it was when he got the job. I do not feel the slightest iota of sympathy for a man who will end up with about $7 million of the university's money, for doing next to nothing, and subjecting all the loyal UCLA alumni and fans to such pathetically unsuccessful football. He has made more money in five years than many people will earn in their lifetimes. I will look back on the Dorrell regime as the worst football interlude in UCLA's modern history. And before we bid him goodbye, we should note all the people who were responsible for it; including Terry Donahue, his corps of acolytes in the program, most of the Los Angeles print and broadcast media, and an all-too-unknowledgeable segment of the Bruin fan base, which is always there to support mediocrity in the name of "the Bruin family" and their own comfort zone.
For now we are at the crucial stage, the hiring of the new coach. And all our work will essentially be in vain if we make a similar mistake. And do not doubt that the same forces which have made it so difficult for us to locate and hire a top football coach are still at work. You can see them every day in other forums, and hear them on talk radio. Yes, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but these people resemble addicts in their inability to imagine a new way of proceeding, and in their almost pathological compulsion to repeat the same errors which they can note as having happened in the past, but cannot recognize in the new configuration they are presented with now.
I'm of course talking about the never-ending efforts some people are making to push for the hiring of DeWayne Walker as head coach. Now, I think such people fall into two categories. Some of them are sincerely fans of Walker; and actually think that UCLA should do the same thing they did with Farmer, Lavin, Toledo and Dorrell--hire an assistant coach because he is already here at UCLA (or in Dorrell's case an alumnus), and because some of the players and recruits are fond of him. They see the failures of all the others, but somehow think that this is different. They live in dreamland, preferring someone who has no head coaching record, because then they can project all sorts of greatness onto him; while anyone who has actually coached somewhere of course has some losses or question marks, which they then use to eliminate that candidate. There is something in the UCLA psyche which has always been in love with wishful thinking; "just around the corner" success, as opposed to intelligent logic applied to the hiring and retaining of coaches. I thought that the work of Ben Howland had taught them something, but apparently not.
The other group is more murky. I absolutely now believe that there is a group of people who are pushing for Walker because they either have some personal connection with him, or hope to gain something concrete from his hiring. There are people on forums who have been pushing for Walker from the beginning of the season. They float rumors about him: that he was and will be considered for other jobs; when the truth is that there is no evidence whatsoever that he has ever had a face-to-face interview for any head job. They say that they "know" that Walker has a certain offensive coordinator in mind; or that they "know" that all our recruits will defect if he is not kept. No matter what other names are broached for the head job, the only one they want is Walker. That should be awfully suspicious in itself. I have no concrete idea as to what part Walker himself is playing in this, but I would have to think that he has been angling for this job all year. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that it was Walker himself who leaked the story about Dan Guerrero having a personal meeting with him, to Tom Deinhart of The Sporting News. It is undoubtedly Walker who went to the media with a story about him being a prime candidate for the Washington State job. And I have to believe that it is Walker who is starting these stories about all "his" recruits leaving if he is not kept. Finally, various posters on other forums insist that Walker has already been promised that he will be retained as DC if he is not given the head job. How would they "know" this, if it is not Walker who is telling them, for his own gain?
Frankly, while I have never met Walker, I do not like him. I am actually rather concerned that Dan Guerreo might be swayed into making Walker's retention as a mandate for any new coach. That would be a horrible idea. First, we might actually lose a great coaching prospect, who does not want to have dictated to him who his coordinators should be. Really good coaches have their own system and their own ideas, and they do not want to be stuck with holdovers from a different regime who might have their own agenda. Anyone who reads literature about the military or business knows the syndrome of the holdover on the new staff who really wants the top position, and who tries to obtain loyalty from the soldiers or employees beneath him to cement his power base. Now, I can't be sure that Walker is that sort; but I am thinking that he is. Second, by forcing Walker on a new coach, the administration would be saying that Walker is in some sense as important as the head coach. What if the new coach doesn't like Walker; or keeps him for a year and finds out that, yes, he cannot stop the spread defense, and wants to get rid of him? That would not be easy if Walker felt protected by the administration and bulwarked by his corps of supporters on the internet. At this point, it would be my fondest wish if Walker somehow got another job and left this program. I do not otherwise see a positive end to Walker's saga in Westwood. Do you realize that there are several people who write things like, "It is more important for us to keep Walker than to hire any one particular coach"? That kind of thinking is akin to that of a cult. And if we are forced to keep Walker, rest assured he will also keep his little staff of assistant coach supporters, which is food for more problems down the line.
Last week, there was a lot of talk about an inane idea of making Norm Chow the head coach, and Walker the defensive coordinator; with Chow doing the technical stuff, and Walker dealing with the players, since Chow is not a people person. This "combo" idea is pathetic; but you would be amazed at how many people thought it was a great idea. It is bad from many aspects; first, that you can't mix and match coaches like food on a dinner platter. A football regime must have one head coach who absolutely runs the show; not a pair of co-coaches who attend to different things. Besides, how long do you think it would take Walker and his band to try to get rid of Chow, so he can have the job? Fortunately, it seems that Dan Guerrero is (so far) smarter than that, and really wants a head coach with experience, not another haphazard gamble.
And who might that coach be? Well, I guess everyone has heard the rumors, and read some of the articles. Apparently Steve Mariucci is a leading candidate. A very recent Times article indicates that Guerrero's first choice (good for you, Dan!) is actually Chris Petersen; and that Mariucci and Mike Leach are right up there. Well, I will say that I would love for Petersen and Mariucci to be the two finalists, because either brings strengths, and either is so far above our recent hires in football as to be a wonderful breath of fresh air for us. I agree with Nestor that while Mariucci's resume has some flaws in it, he is still a respected football man, very dynamic, who might well be a better college coach than a pro coach, like Pete Carroll. I would prefer Petersen, who I think has all the makings of a star coach; but I know it won't be easy to pry him away from Boise. The guy I personally do not want is Leach, who to me is a more unpleasant version of Bob Toledo; who will throw the ball 70 times a game, which I actually find boring, and is not conducive to winning championships; and who rarely beats a good team, because most good defenses can stop his spread attack sufficiently, and move the ball at will on his defenses. And for those who might think, "Well, give him a good defensive coordinator, and we'll be fine," it is my strong opinion that this is not the right way to look at a regime. You do not try to hire a guy who is only good at one side of the ball and then prop him up with a coordinator on the other side. (Yes, I know; Bob Stoops won Steve Spurrier a championship; but there you are talking about two of the very best in the game, and it is a notable exception). Can anyone tell me the names of Jim Tressel's coordinators? I don't know them; and the reason is that Ohio State football is Jim Tressel. Similarly, if either of Urban Meyer's coordinators at Florida leave, do you think it will make a bit of difference in how well he does? UCLA always overrates the value of coordinators, precisely because they hire flawed coaches who cannot do the necessary job, so we always think we can bolster them through coordinators, which ultimately never works for more than a year or two. I will confess that I am afraid that Leach, who I know wants this job, will be willing to make a deal wherein Walker and Company get to stay, while Petersen and Mariucci might not. Please, Mr. Guerrero; you are doing a good job at the outset; do not blow this because of some misplaced loyalty to, or overestimation of, Walker.
So I am on the proverbial tenterhooks right now, because I know that this will be decided sooner rather than later. For me, it's no Leach, no Riley, no Brooks, and certainly no Walker or Chow. I am impressed that Guerrero has apparently shown the acumen to focus on Petersen and Mariucci; but I know that such things can fall through, and that UCLA has time and again been forced to settle for the drab backup choice in football. I actually do not think that I can go through tenure of a coach whom I do not like, and sense will not achieve what we all want here. And while it is undoubtedly true that any coach with the slightest degree of capability can do better than Dorrrell, we should not be fooled into then thinking that the new coach is really good, just because he does. I always knew that Jim Harrick, while surely better than his two immediate predecessors, was not the right coach for UCLA; and yet he would probably still be here were it not for his indiscretions. If we hire Leach, we are probably looking at 10-15 years of him, because coaches like that (particularly at win-starved UCLA) are not so easy to get rid of. A mistake now is actually worse than before, because we will have some measure of success whomever we hire. What we desperately need is to hire the right guy, the one who will make us proud of UCLA football again; someone who we can count on to match up with any opposing coach and to actually out coach many of them; someone who is the new face of UCLA football, and who can start something new and special here.
- Bruin Blue