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UCLA Coaching Hot Stove: Thoughts on a "Search Plan" & a Message for Chancellor Gene Block

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King J77 makes a money point:

There is no guarantee with any coach we hire. Urban Meyer might not work out for tOSU and if we get Petersen, there's a chance he wouldn't work out for UCLA. The important thing is that UCLA goes out and hires top guys that give UCLA a chance to be national player in CFB.

I think that's a point that is worth hammering home again and again at a time like this. I can sense there is a lot of anxiety here and all over Bruin Nation about our ongoing coaching search. It is tough not be anxious when we have an Athletic Director in charge, who well ... I don't really have to get into it. You know the details about Chianti Dan.

The issue I want to zero in on is not who should be our preferred candidates. I think we need to reflect a bit on the actual process. Since Coach Wooden and Vermeil left, UCLA has had a terrible track record when it comes to executing a coaching search for a high profile candidate for a major revenue program except for the case of Ben Howland. When UCLA hired Howland, Bruins did it despite constant snickers and ignorant from the traditional media outlet bloviating about how we couldn't afford to pay big for a top tier head coach and that we would be better of pursuing left over candidates opining. [See one of the all time most stupid, ignorant, and misinformed column from ESPN's "basketball guru" Andy Katz from March of 2003 suggesting Pat Douglass (UCI at the time) and Bob Williams (UCSB at the time as realistic candidates to succeed Steve Lavin as the head coach of UCLA basketball]. This time with football at a crossroad the situation is not any different with media morons, concern trolls or in some cases Bruin haters fabricating rumors or just offering ridiculously uninformed and idiotic analysis when it comes to state of UCLA football.

We have had just ONE instance of Bruins pulling of a successful (at the time) hire in football and basketball in last 30 years of UCLA athletics. No wonder iit is tough to have any confidence in a closed search process as noted by Classof66 in the comment thread of previous post.

So the question I have is whether the UCLA brass - whoever it is (beyond Chianti Dan) - has a smart and strategic plan in place so that they could methodically go through their top tier options and lock into the right person with an offer, they will feel extremely confident about being accepted. Let me expand on this more after the jump.

Here is what I am getting at. Honestly, I get lot of you are already in "love" with Chris Petersen (hey, check out this thread!). I also understand many of us also are for good reasons enamored with Mike Leach. They both are excellent coaches. The issue for me is whether or not UCLA gets Petersen. I think he is potentially a great fit. The issue for me is whether the UCLA brass has a plan in place that entails being in close contact with a coaching candidate like Mike Leach, and letting him know that they are looking at him very closely through this process.

If after the coaching search is over and we end up with an unproven candidate like Kevin Sumlin (who doesn't have a track record of building a power house program) or a retread like Mike Bellotti (who has been out of the game for almost half a decade), we will put on an all out full court press on Gene Block and on UCLA as an institution to not just get rid of Chianti Dan but all his cronies in Morgan Center. Dan Guerrero should know that his job is on the line.

We are happy to give Guerrero room to help influential UCLA alums such as Casey Wasserman, Troy Aikman and Cade McNown to lead the current effort and get us a top notch coach despite his lack of vision and leadership. However, we are closely keeping an eye without getting too emotionally invested in any particular candidate.

If Guerrero was an aggressive and competent athletic director he would have had a timeline in place that would roughly resemble the following:

  • At the end of the last season, he would have called Rick Neuheisel in and let him know in very specific terms about his expectations for this current season. It would have been in line with the baseline expectations set up and discussed on BN time and time again along with having a team that performed consistently every game.
  • During this off-season a competent athletic director would have put together a short list of 5-6 coaching candidates (along with some backup ones) and started sending feelers through back channels that UCLA may come calling in case Neuheisel didn't meet the expectations in 2011 football season. Believe it or not UCLA was actually doing this prior to Lavin's season with a few top tier basketball coaches including Ben Howland.
  • After the Arizona game, a competent and decisive athletic director would have fired Neuheisel that Sunday, appointed an interim coach (letting him know "interim" meant "interim") and launched his coaching search based on the plan and list drawn up during offseason.
  • UCLA should have been in position to do finishing touches at this point by making offers to someone, who they knew would sign it, and then jump on a private jet to arrive in West LA

Instead from what we have picked up in the reports, so far UCLA doesn't seem to have such a plan in place and they are putting all their eggs in one basket. If UCLA is able to execute on the current plan which appears to be around one coach, and brings him into Westwood, then it will be ok (although we are going to keep the full court press on Chianti Dan).

However, we start seeing reports UCLA going after candidates like Kevin Sumlin and Mike Bellotti in a serious way, it will get ugly. What is so illogical about the Bruins going after these guys is that for first time it's clear UCLA is going to be opening up the check book. Well if the Bruins are going to be looking to spend $4 million per year, they should have a plan in place (not draw up on the fly if for some reason their top target says no) that would entail going after elite coaches. If you look at this breakdown from USA Today, prior to Urban Meyer's signing, there were 3 coaches who make more than $ 4 million per year. So if we have that kind of financial leverage, it would look silly if the Bruins are targeting unproven guys like Sumlin or retread like Bellotti.

If Guerrero and his lieutenants were competent and know anything about college football, they'd already done the research for these salaries and would have a short target list drawn up during off-season which should have included names such as Mark Dantonio, Bo Pellini, Charlie Strong, Mike Gundy and so on. The mantra here has always been dreaming big and thinking big. As noted by P even impartial observers such as CoachesHotSeatBlogagrees with what we are suggesting in this approach.

So if Bruins end up getting someone like a Sumlin or a Bellotti it will be considered a total epic fail on the part of Guerrero and his embattled athletic department already under fire. It is clear he is feeling the heat. It is clear UCLA as an institution is feeling the heat (as evidenced by efforts by "UCLA Fund" officials to do damage control here on BN).

Let's make it clear to Chancellor Gene Block. If UCLA has to settle for a coach who is not an elite candidate, we will only turn up the heat for a wholesale regime change in Westwood.