1950kidbruin had me thinking with his post imploring "True Bruins" to show respect. As many of you posters know, when it comes to Bruin "street cred," I don't match up with 1950kidbruin, Fox71, Classof66, Nestor or any of the frontpagers who tirelessly write and update information for your viewing pleasure. I never saw Coach on the floor at the court that bears his name, I never chatted with (insert Bruin name here) at Maloney's or took a political science course with (insert Bruin athlete name here) and I've only been to __ games, camped out for __ games and was actually rejected once from prolonging my Bruin post-grad education. You get the point. I do consider myself a fairly respectful person due to my upbringing. I give all due respect when it is earned.
Jim Mora and his coaching staff earned my respect this season with the cultural change. I'll be the first to admit I was wrong about being pessimistic with the hire. Ben Howland had my respect (past tense) when he righted the ship and began recruiting local stars like Arron Afflalo and began our return to prominence. Heck I respect the players on this team including the Wears and LDII. They catch a lot of flak but I respect them for playing basketball for my university despite playing for a coach with a prickly personality and an athletic director who is the quintessential overpaid, underperforming bureaucrat.
As I was watching the Bruins upset the Wildcats at the McKale Center on national television, I saw the Optimists campaign and was immediately filled with immense Bruin pride as I saw the faces and likes of pioneers, visionaries, leaders, world-changers, entertainers and intellectual minds. These are our fellow Bruin brothers and sisters and collectively, they enrich the lives of millions of others. I was ecstatic as I saw my Bruin brothers pull off the upset but I could not help but wonder how the reaction would be on Friday, as the Howling Howlers came out in full force.
Let me remind the Howlers, Guerrerophiles and anyone else who has a weird attachment to a certain coach or bureaucrat, that Gene Block, Dan Guerrero and Ben Howland are not UCLA Bruins like Coach Wooden and any of the optimists in the commercial are. UCLA does not owe Coach Howland anything for doing his job successfully in the past. He is paid millions of dollars and probably goes home to a nicer home than you. He was a good coach who made 3 Final Fours but has since been exposed as a head coach who cannot consistently recruit the top talent in California nor can he adapt his coaching style to showcase the strengths of his players. Heck, if you want to talk about a personality cult, we fired one of our own, Rick Neuheisel who was a Rose Bowl hero. Do you see any Neubs out there that still think that another season with Rick Neuheisel would've been the same as Jim Mora's 1st season? Probably not. Even the Neubs have realized their stupidity and short sightedness. Change is not always bad and scary. In fact, sometimes it's good. Just ask the MLB since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, or Anthony Barr who switched positions and lines up on the other side of the ball.
Winning is not everything but let's not forget why we are on this site today. We are UCLA Bruins. We are Bruins Nation. We all have different opinions and are sure to clash about them but we're not the UCLA Neuheisels or the UCLA Howlands, or the University of California Travis and David Wear at Los Angeles. We are the UCLA Bruins and a Bruin represents and respects his or her university and everything that it stands for. We are not beholden to any individual because of his past accolades. The UCLA optimists strove for perfection, ingenuity and change, always for the better that is why they left a lasting legacy. The late Coach and the late Jackie Robinson represent our university today not because of what they did in the past, but because of the legacy that we, in the future, continue to wholeheartedly respect years after their passing.
To this day, I'll mention to non-Bruin friends that I had the honor of watching the 2007 team that featured NBA players Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kevin Love, steamroll the rest of the talented Pac-10 and will hear groans and remarks like "How the hell did you guys NOT win it all?" or "You guys lost to Derrick Rose? That's one player." Coming close to winning it all is not a legacy nor is missing the tournament twice in 3 years. That's what we call regret.
Remember that respect unlike Dan Guerrero's salary, is earned, not given and can be lost as we all saw with Penn State and Joe Paterno. Instead of respecting for the sake of respect, let's try to remember that a "True Bruin" respects and understands the greatness of UCLA first and foremost and while opinions and actions may vary drastically, we will all be cheering together loudly the day we win a national championship in NCAA basketball. Anyone out there who questions our True Bruin credibility needs to take a long, hard look at the mirror and ask themselves, who are you rooting for? Is it UCLA or Ben Howland?