It's funny how things work. Or don't work.
The deal is done, Dan Guerrero has found his man to replace Ben Howland. We will never really know the "process", if there ever was one, that took place and brought us a reported rape apologist as coach. Yet, there is one glaring irony in this whole clown show, one that I wish all Bruins would realize. This was a defining moment for UCLA Basketball, as Achilles stated so well in his post. Well I don't quite like this definition, and the irony is that after years of animated disagreement among Bruins this moment should serve to unite us all in one purpose: getting rid of Chianti Dan Guerrero.
The logic is simple. For those of us who were done with Ben Howland's tenure early on and throughout the last couple of years, we had one fear: that Guerrero would fire Howland and still be around to make a terrible hire. It looks as though our fears were well founded. For those who defended Howland until the bitter end, well...Guerrero just fired your beloved coach. So you see, the commonality of Guerrero's incompetence unites us.
There is no point in trying to sway the blind and myopic "support the coach" contingency. These people are robotically conditioned to stand behind whoever is put in charge of the program and survive on the annual hope that "this is the year". Their vision is limited to the upcoming season with no regard for history or future prospects. They look to UCLA Basketball only for their current enjoyment and define their Bruinhood in that manner, lambasting anyone who faults the program in any way. These people are frankly as lazy as the Athletic Misdirector who somehow keeps bumbling his way into a huge salary.
Let's take a moment to (gasp!) peer inside the mind of Chianti Dan and expose him as the lazy bureaucrat who is slowly degrading the UCLA name.
First of all, why did it take so long to fire Ben Howland? He had a bad season last year and saw a damning article on Sports Illustrated prior to this one. So why not fire him then? Guerrero claims that he wanted to give Howland the benefit of the doubt as he essentially had to play all away games last year with Pauley being renovated. Well who put him in that awful dilapidated sorry excuse of a stadium in the Sports Arena in the first place? But does anyone really buy that? Howland had already had a losing season, two flameouts in the first weekend of the tournament and another mediocre season by then. The truth is closer to the fact that Howland was reeling in a top recruiting class and Guerrero had to fill the seats in Old Pauley Under Glass after an overpriced renovation.
Still, the lazy bureaucrat didn't even start a rudimentary search for a potential replacement as a precaution. Guerrero's hope was that Howland would do enough this past season to be retained so that he wouldn't have to bother with an annoying coaching search. Oh it was so hard already for football.
Dan Guerrero is simply a terrible salesman and that was already obvious after the search for a football coach. That job should be one of the easiest to sell to a top coach. Relatively low expectations, a fertile recruiting area, increased media exposure, the advantages are numerous. Instead, the search was rudderless and unfocused because our athletic misdirector simply has no experience with big time college football. He mistakenly believed that it was the job that was being rejected, and not the future boss and athletic administration. So his next search criterion was someone who "really really wants the job", as if coaching at UCLA was such an undesirable burden. By all accounts, Mora sold Guerrero rather than the other way around. It has worked out well so far even if sustained success remains to be seen. But therein lies the rub.
Guerrero eschewed the search committee and went with Mora, and that only emboldened him in the search for a basketball coach. Initially, it seems there was a search committee whose focus was on hiring Brad Stevens. There was no offer made to him, no meeting as far as we know, and an early indication that he wasn't interested. The details are not clear but what is clear is that Guerrero quickly gave up when he should have redoubled his efforts. Of course those efforts should have started long ago. Wooing a coach like Stevens is not something that occurs in the span of a few days but Guerrero simply does not understand the workings of big time athletics. He is either arrogant, thinking the UCLA name should grant him immediate validity, or more likely lazy and completely inept at presenting a convincing sales pitch. Heaven knows why there wasn't even an effort to approach Shaka Smart.
In any case, the next step should have been to at least speak to the other top desirable candidates, Pitino and Donovan, no matter the likelihood of them coming to Westwood. Instead, Guerrero thought back to his search for a football coach and figured it worked out pretty well when he hired someone who just really really wants the job. There wasn't even an in-person interview of Steve Alford, from what we understand. No, the hire was done surreptitiously, with the deal done on a late Friday night and announced on a Saturday morning so as to avoid any backlash, like corporations do when announcing bad news. You can only imagine Guerrero's reputation now among Athletic Directors, hiring someone who had just agreed to a contract, without even contacting the UNM AD for permission to speak to Alford as is customary. You would expect that from someone with Alford's character, but now Guerrero's has been revealed as well.
The search was an utter and complete joke. Don't believe me? Well why don't we hear it from one of the Final Four coaches:
Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall confirmed media reports this morning that UCLA had contacted his representative last week, wanting to talk to Marshall about its then-vacant coaching job.
"I'm coaching a team in the Final Four," Marshall said on "Sports Daily," a KFH radio show co-hosted by The Eagle's Bob Lutz. "We are still playing. There were overtures made to a representative of mine from UCLA and they wanted to talk. And I totally refused to do that while in L.A., while we were still playing. And I would never do that."
UCLA hired Steve Alford on Saturday, the day Wichita State beat Ohio State in the West Regional final at Staples Center.
So...ignore the guy who has principles and go with the ship jumper with a shady past. The deal was done quickly to avoid a larger buyout, perhaps even without doing a proper background search, because that is really Guerrero's modus operandi, saving a few bucks here and there. By all accounts he is a good fiscal manager but that is the extent of his skill. He is deeply risk averse and doesn't really have any vision for UCLA's revenue programs and certainly doesn't know how to promote them, managing instead for the here and now. And it has become increasingly clear that elite coaches do not want to work for him...unless they really really want the job.
They don't want to work for Dan Guerrero because he is simply lazy and incompetent. It seems now that in the coaching fraternity, UCLA is seen not as a place for those who have already made it (like Pitino or Donavan) or are on their way to making it (Stevens), but those who need a reset (Neuheisel, Mora), those who will never get a shot at other elite schools (Alford), and even those who will never get a shot, period (Dorrell).
Chianti is so second rate and so unhelpful to coaches that top guys may initially investigate UCLA but fairly quickly conclude they aren't going to get near the institutional support to which they are used or that they expect. So even if the athletic department now has marginally more money to offer, the rest of the package is so poor that the school can only attract guys who don't have a better option or really want the job for their own reasons. Karl, Rick and Steve had no better options. Mora probably could have been a defensive coordinator in the NFL but he wanted to be a head coach and be close to his parents. Howland really wanted the UCLA job and we lucked into him. Stevens and Peterson weren't coming after investigating Dan and our administrative support.
The incompetence starts at the top, but it is so deeply ingrained at UCLA that it would take a massive overhaul to change the status quo. Now more than ever, Bruins have to unite for the future of UCLA Athletics and stop giving opportunities to those who do not deserve it, starting with Dan Guerrero.