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Reasons for Optimism

So lot of hand wringing going on various Bruin message boards these days about UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. Everyone is trying to read DG's mind coming to his or her own conclusion. I have read comments from some Bruin fans with total defeatist attitude that somehow there is no way DG is going to make any move end of this season no matter what happens. They think DG will let KD return for one reason just to make sure he gets his chance at that perfect storm season when he gets an talent laden experienced team (yeah the same talent that is on this team) and an easy schedule.

We are not going to bother talking about next year right now because it is still all about this year. And at this point people will look incredibly foolish if they try to read certain conclusions about the situation concerning the head coaching position of UCLA football. So let's put to rest two misnomers concerning the Bruin football program and Dan Guerrero.

First don't by the BS when someone is trying to tell you that it is a definite that DG has made up his mind on allowing Dorrell to return next season as the head coach. That is just hog wash. Right now nobody knows what is going through DG's mind. And there is no use of trying. Because he hasn't spoken to anyone about Dorrell. Except for giving some vague public statements in the press in which he said that Dorrell needs to "right the ship," and "get some good wins here at the end of the season." In addition to that with some boilerplate comments on how the team is young, DG has not proffered anything else on Dorrell. That is because he is talking to nobody.  I have talked to friends who are close to Morgan Center who basically told me that even no one in the Morgan Center knows what DG is thinking.  I think that is a very good sign in the sense of DG is being professional about this.  I have no idea whether DG will or will not do something dramatic should UCLA continues to collapse this season. So I think it will be foolish on my part to reach any kind of conclusion.

Second, lot of folks think that there is no way UCLA will fire KD because there is still time remaining on his contract. Well that is just silly. Steve Lavin had time remaining on his contract when DG kicked his sorry behind out of Westwood. So did Toledo.  Lots of incompetent coaches have time left on their contract.  Moreover, as I mentioned previously here there's no need to be worried about summer story of Dorrell getting some kind of contract extension. It was not really a contract extension.  Dorrell already had a 6 year rollover agreement in place extending to the 2010 season. He got a raise to $850,000 for the same six year roll over contract that he signed back in 2004. And why did UCLA give him the raise (less than Coach Howland) in his rollover contact? Well, the program wanted to project an image of stability on the recruiting front. We heard the same "extension" nonsense during Lavin era too. So if there is a total collapse to finish this season (without any major victories including one over Southern Cal), that summer story will have no impact on Dorrell's tenure in Westwood. All that story about a pay raise is a PR move on the part of UCLA to give coaches a boost in their recruiting efforts.

In other words that little PR move will not stop DG from pulling the trigger on KD if in fact that's he wants to do at the end of this season (or if he has his mind made up sometime in next few weeks).

I also think we should give DG a little benefit of the doubt here. I think there are some good reasons for us to be cautiously optimistic about DG handing this Dorrell situation.  Here are my reasons.

First, I don't really buy the argument that Dorrell is DG's guy. The conventional wisdom (or the easy narrative) is that Dorrell is DG's guy because he made the hire. I don't think that's the case.  When DG took over the reigns for Peter Dalis (the guy most responsible for wrecking our major revenue athletic programs), I think he was really focused on getting us a new basketball coach. And yes it was Howland's dream to become UCLA's coach some day. But it still took DG to conduct a thorough, professional search process which led to a smooth hiring of Ben Howland, despite Pitt's attempts to throw millions more than what UCLA offered to Coach Howland. I give DG lot of credit for that fact.

Anyways I don't think DG was ready to deal with the replacing a football coach only few months after his arrival at UCLA. So he had to delegate responsibilities for hiring a new coach to other folks in Morgan Center. Folks like Bob Field, (Donahue's DC, legendary for ineffective, bend don't break defenses which led to classic Bruin chokes big games) took over the UCLA football coaching search in 02, which yielded the inspiring final lists of Riley, Robinson, and Dorrell. Out of those three from what I heard back then DG wanted to go with Riley. Riley of course is not the most inspiring hire. But probably would have done the job considering he has previous experience of building a program from scratch at Corvallis.  Now in his second stint at Oregon state he is doing what he can to make the best out of the talent available at Corvallis.  Not spectacular but he isn't horrible.  He would have probably average 8-10 wins with the talent Toledo left in Westwood.  Again may have not gotten us to a BCS game right away, but he would probably be as close as a Donahue clone DG could get in Westwood.  But it was Al Carnesale, who made the call on KD over Riley, DG's first choice. Carny loved KD for whatever reason ( Carny LOVED Lavin like his son and backed him up in 2001 when Pitino stories surfaced in the media). Remember this from Jason Whitlock on Page 2 of WWL:

And the L.A. Daily News story wrapped up with this valuable bit of insight: "According to a source close to the search, Dorrell, dressed in a stylish dark suit and white shirt, had an extremely impressive interview" with UCLA's chancellor.

Why not just go out and hire Denzel? He did a great job in "Remember the Titans."I hope Dorrell can coach football. Because I'm not confident the people he'll be working for know a damn thing about football. They won't be any help. Greg Robinson should've never been a candidate. Mike Riley, the other finalist, shouldn't have been a candidate either. He's never won anywhere and, obviously, judging by the jobs he's turned down, doesn't want the responsibility of being a head coach.The Bruins return a great deal of talent and are expected to contend for the Pac 10 title next season. (Note: Contend for the PAC 10 title? That's not fair to Coach Dorrell in his first season!)I pray Dorrell didn't just step into some ... stuff. Because if he's not ready, if he's unsuccessful at UCLA, black assistant coaches will be hearing his name, not Willingham's, every time a high-profile job becomes available.
And here is more on how it was Carnesale and Blackmun  who were the ones enamored with Dorrell during his hiring process (emphasis mine):
[A]ccording to a source close to the search, Dorrell, dressed in a stylish dark suit and white shirt, had an extremely impressive interview with Carnesale and vice chancellor Pete Blackman on Tuesday.

"The bottom line is, Karl kicked (tail) in the interview," said the source close to the search. "He really showed passion and demonstrated from a philosophical standpoint the importance of discipline, what it means to be a Bruin, what it means to wear that uniform, to go to school and graduate from here and to beat SC and win Pac-10 championships."

Dorrell, as he prepared Tuesday to return home, thought he left a good impression, too.

"It was very positive, he said. "I told them I could redirect the program back to the level it should have been and bring the toughness, discipline and integrity that the program should have."
I will not get snarky about the comment on Pac-10 championships and beating Southern Cal because that is too easy.  But more importantly note it wasn't DG who were blown away in those final interviews.  KD hiring if you read between the lines in media reporting back then was more of a creation of Carnesale and Vice Chancellor Peter Blakmun. So yeah I am not going to pin the Dorrell hire on DG.

Second, I think DG has faired quiet well in the hiring processes in which he had total control. The Howland hire is the obvious one. But as some have already mentioned here on BN, we should also give DG some credit for bringing in John Savage, who by all accounts have done a great job in resurrecting a UCLA baseball program with lots of potential but had lost it ways under its former coach.

Third, DG has taken some concrete steps in shifting from the penny pinching Mom and Pop store attitude of UCLA athletic department under its previous Ads.  When he first took over his job, the two (incompetent)head coaches of our major sports programs were making in the range of 600-650k a year.  And here we are 3 years later Coach Howland is making more than 1.5 million and UCLA has shown it can easily pony up almost a million for a coach like Dorrell, and then also give him the budget to bring in high priced coordinators like DeWayne Walker.

Fourth, from what I hear DG is plugged in. He reads all of his emails. He reads emails pouring into his blackberry even while on the road. He tries to read all of them. So he has an idea of the pulse of this Bruins Nation ranging from the boo birds he has been hearing (directed towards the coaching staff) to the discontent of the high donor alums/boosters. And apparently rumors are swirling that high donors are telling Morgan Center that they will not pony up for Pauley Pavilion renovation until they see the situation resolved around UCLA football.

So again as I have said before don't lose faith. I am not so pessimistic about the future of Bruin football with DG in charge. I think he knows what is doing.  And we can't get too worked up about any boiler plate supportive statements he may give out during the season.  No one knows what is going through his mind.

Meanwhile, what we can do is keep at it. Keep talking up how we are not happy with the status quo. Keep organizing.  By the end of the season if it becomes clear Dorrell failed to save the sinking ship which is his UCLA football program, who knows DG just may pull the trigger.

But since no one knows what is really on his mind let's do our part in keeping the conversation going in a civil and constructive manner, while staying optimistic about DG making the right move.