Mora Jr. turns attention from media; goes after his own staff instead

By REED NELSON

UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. sure is a crowd pleaser.

In the aftermath of the Scott Wolf Credential fiasco1, the LA Times decided to stop covering USC and UCLA, citing the restrictive nature of the programs and the dictator’s posted atop of them.

And now, six days after kicking all media members out of practice, Deadspin.com posted a story, delicately entitled “Jim Mora is An Asshole” that goes on to say that, well, Mora is a total asshole.

The issue for Mora? Evidence is mounting to affirm the statement. Deadspin might slam everyone, like the Philadelphia Phillies fans of the media world, but now those in the “serious” media circles have cited the first-year head coach’s behavior toward the media as odd. His behavior toward his own staff, however, is even more shocking.

Last week, he publicly berated an assistant Student Information Director for allowing a cameraman to stand in a place Mora didn’t see fit. As the phenomenal, long-time L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers wrote,

“According to witnesses, it was like someone shredding a tackling dummy, or tossing fresh meat to a pack of animals.

He berated an unassuming sports information assistant in front of the whole team for allowing a TV cameraman to stand in the wrong place.

In doing so, he gave the sports information assistant an earful of some very impressive obscenities, which of course the young players would expect from their demanding leader.

Then Mora forced the guy to make the walk of humiliation off the practice field.”

It was the latest example of crazy behavior from a coach who has acted crazy from the day he showed up in Westwood.

Even weirder, however, is that Simers went on to present a quasi-defense for Mora’s actions, at least on behalf of UCLA football fans. He said that they would sacrifice some professional dignity for the reward of a winning program (I’m guessing he’s thinking of a stand-up ass like Nick Saban), that privacy and respect from the media was something that a successful program should try to encourage.

But he hedged his position by calling Mora an “established” liar, and insinuated that there was a canyon-esque disconnect between the coach and the Student Information Director and his omnipotent staff.

All together, it wasn’t the glowing defense that Mora could have used following his brash actions.

I understand that Kiffin and Mora don’t want too much to leave the practice field, but I also hope that the L.A. Times will continue to hold out coverage until they make their point.

Practices aren’t Las Vegas — they don’t come with a motto. They have a set of rules, and if reporters aren’t violating those rules then a coach in a market the size of Los Angeles needs to understand the voracious appetite for all things UCLA/USC and throw these guys a bone. Bill Belichick has been doing it for years.

Injury reports in the Pac-12 are not mandated by the conference, and coaches don’t need to disclose a thing. But reporters will keep asking the questions, keep searching for the answers, looking under rocks and casting lines. It’s what we do. We’re not trying to harm the players — or the programs — but we are trying to serve the beat as best we can.

Does that mean pissing off a coach or two? Yes, yes and yes. It happens. Tom Izzo gets angry if you insinuate that he donates to Unicef. What coaches can’t do is go after their communications staff.

The Student Information Directors (SIDs) are the left tackle in the team’s operation. They are the hustle guy, the super utility player, the secretary with all their bosses dirty little secrets. They are Tom Hagen and Winston Wolf wrapped into a burrito of security.

You want to know what the players were really doing before the fight that broke out at an off-campus party? The SID knows.

Was it really their car that flipped at 3 a.m.? The SID probably keeps the registration in his glove box.

You have a problem with coach? Gotta get through the SID first. Same goes for the players.

How many times in the history of cinema has the bosses closest confidant sold them out after a public lashing2? AND YOU’RE IN HOLLYWOOD, JIM. OF COURSE THE ACCUSED PARTY IS GOING TO GO ON RECORD. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE SMOG.

This is why Mora’s latest outburst was so baffling. By calling the information staff “incompetent” and placing some strangely allocated responsibility upon the same staff (“I’m not going to jeopardize what we’re doing as a football team because of the incompetence of some people,” he was quoted as saying in the L.A. Times column.) he is alienating the only group of people who like him unconditionally. They’re paid to do so, but they do a great f*cking job, too.

Mitch Wigness, the SID at the University of Detroit-Mercy, knows what brand of toothbrush that his players prefer. If you wanted to talk to coach, you talked to him first. It was the same drill at Michigan State. I can’t imagine Mark Dantonio taking pot shots at his Tom Hagen, John Lewandewski.

The bottom line is this: In a world full of sharks, the SIDs carry the bandaids.

Why Mora would want to create a chasm between him and his first aid kit is maybe the most baffling question in this strange turn of events amongst the power-drunk figure heads perched atop the Los Angeles football world.

Footnotes

  • The one where USC head coach Lane Kiffin tried to strip Scott Wolf of his media credentials when Kiffin asserted that Wolf would write about injuries. The information, Kiffin gathered, was not fit for print, and he did the only thing a rational human being would do: Try to ban the most important force of mass media in America’s second most visible city from attending two weeks worth of practices and games.Jump
  • Off the top of my head, Fredo in The Godfather, Pt. 2, Ben Foster’s character in Contraband, Idris Elba in Losers, Danny DeVito’s secretary in What’s the Worst that Could Happen?, Harvey Keitel’s partner in Two Jake’s, everyone in Sherlock Holmes stories… I’m reaching now… the evilest actor ever (a.k.a. Peter Greene) in Blue Streak. The point is, it happens a lot. It makes too much sense. Use yours Jim, use yours.Jump


Categories: Analysis, Around the Pac-12, Features, News & Notes, Reed Nelson

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  1. The Dirty Dozen, Week 6 | SKODUCKS.COM
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