When was the last time you felt so
much goodwill surrounding Bruin football and basketball? UCLA now has a relatively young athletic
director who, in less than a year, was able to cut loose the deadwood primarily
responsible for making the Bruins a regional also-ran, not to mention a national
joke. Certainly events worked to
Dan Guerrero's advantage. One
shutters to think what would have happened had Bob Toledo beaten SC and
Howland is the best thing to happen to Bruin basketball since Larry Brown (and he appears far more stable than the jumpy, somewhat bi-polar Brown). You'd have to be a crank of pathological proportions not to be happy with this hire. Any competent professional would have been an upgrade from Lav, but this guy is premium, having produced impressive programs in far less fertile ground than Westwood.
Whenever a school loses a legendary coach, or even a first class coach (this was not Guerrero's problem), it frequently makes the mistake of trying to recreate the past by hiring from within. George Dickerson, Bill Barnes, Bob Toledo, Larry Farmer, Walt Hazzard, and Lav all had very direct links to the Bruin family, and all were disasters. Gary Cunningham, though not a disaster, was temperamentally unsuited to be a head coach and thus proved to be a mistake. Pepper Rodgers and Jim Harrick had indirect family links and were also disasters.
Dick Vermeil served under Tommy Prothro for only one season in Westwood (then two more with Prothro when Tommy traded up for the Rams). Personally, I'd rate Vermeil even above Prothro as runner up to the immortal "Red" as best in Bruin football history. Losing Vermeil to the NFL, after only two seasons, was probably the second worst break in Bruin football history, right behind Red's immortal boner in the Lafayette Hotel. Terry Donahue, the most fortunate son in Bruin history, and with impeccable family ties, is also the most over-rated coach in Bruin history. It's worth noting that the two "wizards," John Wooden and Henry "Red" Sanders, had absolutely no links to the Bruin family when they came west. To be fair, neither did another mistake, Gene Bartow.
Dorrell is obviously a different
proposition from Howland: unproven and largely unknown, but with a huge
potential upside. He's an old
Bruin, of course, but with a difference: his outsider influence in the form of
Mike Shanahan and the NFL. Bob
Toledo, despite his time at Oregon and Texas A&M, and his bogus rep as an
offensive genius with a bag full of dangerous trick plays (which, often as not,
blew up in his face), was very much a poor man's Donahue. Which is to say he was basically
conservative, with offensive talents that ran more to self-justification than to
on-field schemes. Terry hired
better assistants and paid more attention to them, thus extending his Bruin
career to the last limits of endurance.
What a pleasure it is to have two such
presentable coaches as Howland and Dorrell. After suffering Harrick and
We're all aware of the honeymoon
effect whenever a new regime replaces an unpopular, played-out old regime. The French were happy enough to watch
Louis XVI lose his head, little suspecting the horrors of the Robespierre crowd. Forget Napoleon. Even
Anyone remember "The Good News
Bear?" That was an article by one
Alan Rifkin that appeared in the Los
Angeles Times Magazine in early
October '98, and pretty well caught the zeitgeist at the highpoint of Toledo‘s
I don't expect this sort of deja vu seven years down the line, but it'll be a while before we know for sure. After watching a great deal of spring practice it's easy to see how Guerrero could have been so blown away by Dorrell. The guy is undeniably impressive. His staff, the organization, focus, attention to detail, and emotional intensity of his practices; his aggressive, ambitious approach; his directness; even his willingnesss to consider that coaching no-no: rotating his quarterbacks. Though Drew Olson had the more impressive spring in most people's eyes, it wasn't as though he clearly pulled away from Matt Moore. If neither separates himself from the other, and both improve and play well in the fall, why not try rotating them? It would at least lessen the chance of one of them transferring. And alternating quarterbacks did work well for SC with Wacholtz and Otton
The cupboard is not bare and Dorrell is certainly fortunate to be inheriting this personnel. But unless the quarterbacks hit the field passing, and passing effectively, those eight-man fronts will still be dogging Ebell, Manny and (probably) Maurice Drew. Dorrell's more horizontal, "west coast" approach, should lessen the pressure, but either Olson and/or Moore are going to have to present some vertical threat, too, in order to keep aggressive, fearless defenses (can you say Oklahoma) from snuffing them in the shallow zones. Fortunately they have Bragg, Taylor, Perry, Marcedes, Ryan Smith, and Idris Moss to throw to. The defensive front looks good and the pass defense looks smarter and more aggressive than anything within recent, or even long-range, memory. If the rather thin offensive line holds up things could get very sweet. The offense was moving some on the first-team defense toward the end of spring, and I particularly remember being surprised on one third -and-one in the spring scrimmage when the quarterback completed a subtle little flat pass for an easy first down. New days, BROs. Though KD hasn't won a game yet, I think I'll be going to Boulder.