It's Monday morning, which once again, sadly means a return back to work. We've got a lot to cover in this Monday morning edition of Bruin Bites, so let's get right to it and take a look at the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse:
- We'll start this week's Bruin Bites with, as typical of the non-revenue roundups (which will be coming later today), a look at legendary men's volleyball coach Al Scates. Sadly, this weekend marked the last game of Coach Scates' remarkable 50 year run as UCLA's head coach (with 19 national titles in the bank) with a loss to UC Irvine in the MPSF conference tournament. Scott Reid over at the Orange County Register has an extended profile on the Volleyball Wizard of Westwood. But more than dominating the game, Coach Scates, part-John Wooden, part-James Naismith, part-Vince Lombardi, is the father of volleyball in the United States: all-in-all not too bad for a football player cut from the volleyball team at Santa Monica City College for not knowing how to play in the late 1950s. It's a sad day not just in Westwood, but in the entire volleyball world with Coach Scates finally hanging it up.
- Moving on to another former UCLA coach and following up on last Monday's Bruin Bites, Larry Brown (who with just two seasons in Westwood, among 14 other coaching stops, is the polar opposite to Coach Scates' 50 years at UCLA), has accepted the head coaching job at SMU, making his return to the college game after leaving Kansas following his national title winning 1987-88 season.
- Speaking of basketball, Shabazz Muhammad, the 18-year-old who Ben Howland hopes will save his job in Westwood, has been working on improving his game with Jeremy Russotti at the Sonoma Academy, since he will no longer be able to rely on elite athleticism to dominate lesser competition (although, given how abysmally poor the Pac-12 projects to be, maybe he really doesn't need to worry). And while Phil Barber at the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat gets in the obligatory Adidas-Muhammad-UCLA link, what's key in his story is that Shabazz is demonstrating the kind of commitment to his craft that UCLA hasn't seen since the days of AA. Which is good for Ben Howland, because he'll need an AA-style determined-to-win-at-all-costs-no-matter-the-amount-of-work-it-takes kind of player to stay employed at UCLA.
- Switching over to football, the news that has been buzzing around the Bruin-sphere and Spaulding is the emergence of "White Mamba" Steven Manfro at RB. Peter Yoon at WWL took a long-look at the lightly recruited RB out of Valencia (besides UCLA, only Wyoming offered) with some good quotes from the kid that got neglected by pretty much every Division I school in the country. Now, bear in mind, he's showing off at spring practice against an injury-ravaged, much-maligned defensive unit. But if the kid blows up in the fall when the games count (and I think we're all hoping he does), it will really raise some interesting discussions about race and stereotypes in college recruiting (and by extension, not just in the NFL Draft, but in all college and professional sports). Slightly relevant side-note: the most valuable sports franchise in the entire world, Manchester United, has a roster made up of 15 Englishmen, 3 Brazilians, 2 Frenchmen (one Senegalese, the other Guinean), 2 Portuguese, 2 Northern Irishmen, and a Spaniard, Bulgarian, Welshmen, South Korean, Mexican, Serb, Scotsman, Ecuadorian, Belgian, Dane, Italian, Pole, Irishman, and Norwegian (but ethnically Gambian). It appears diversity in sport works out pretty good (and allows me to make my obligatory Man Utd reference).
- Turning to something a bit lighter, Jon Gold profiled UCLA's new defensive backs coach, Demetrice Martin, who is looking to bring the swagger back to UCLA's embattled and thin secondary. Neutered by Neuheisel's conservative bend-but-don't-break 8-10 yard cushion "strategy" the UCLA secondary found itself torched by opposing QBs, giving every Pac-12 QB an opportunity to get some prime Heisman candidacy footage at the expense of UCLA. Martin is bringing back an aggressive, in-your-face press coverage scheme that will have UCLA fans finally expecting the defense to not give up the 5 yard out or slant without opposition all day.
- Finally, let's end this with another damning strike against Chianti Dan and his failed "leadership" in Westwood. Bud Withers at the Seattle Times profiled Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos, who like Chianti Dan, was faced with a failing coaching regime led by a popular former player. Yet, as we've discussed before on BN, there couldn't have been a more stark contrast between the two athletic directors in how they dealt with their respective coaching situations. Unlike Chianti Dan, Moos had a plan in place and took decisive, planned action to get a new coach in place quickly in a hire that made a big splash for the lowly Cougars. Seeing that a Seattle-area reporter is coming up with the same unflattering picture of Chianti Dan flailing about in his coaching search, which a dynamic guy like Moos is proactive, just shows how incompetent Dan is: he's so bad about it, they know it in Seattle. Pretty sad.
Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites to get the week started. Fire away with your thoughts, opinions, and takes in the comment threads.