New UCLA Coach Jim Mora relishes on-the-job training
This, UCLA Coach Jim L. Mora should know, was just the appetizer. The meat of the matter comes on signing day the first week of February.
But Mora didn’t wait long to dig in after being hired.
He has taken the NCAA compliance test, spent nearly every free moment on the telephone, had a whirlwind tour of the Sacramento area, and offered himself up for inspection — all in five days.
“Everything’s positive,” Mora said. “It’s the honeymoon period, right?”
Getting players to say “I do” will be the next step.
Mora’s only college coaching experience was as a Washington graduate assistant in 1984. He has immersed himself in the art of recruiting, with the here’s-the-job-now-get-to-work week culminated Saturday with 25 to 30 recruits visiting UCLA.
“I learned more than I ever thought I could learn in these last few days,” Mora said. “My head is full. I have been on the phone every night until midnight with recruits. We start on the East Coast and work our way to Hawaii. I spent all day yesterday on the road. It is invigorating.”
On-the-job training was made easier when Adrian Klemm (Southern Methodist) and Demetrice Martin (Washington) were hired. Both have solid reputations as recruiters, especially in the Los Angeles area.
Compton Dominguez offensive lineman Lacy Westbrook was on the verge of de-committing from UCLA. Klemm’s arrival brought him back into the fold.
“You wanted to see what kind of coaches he brought in,” Westbrook said. “It tells you the direction he’s going.” Hiring Klemm, he said, “makes it all the better.”
Mora’s son, Cole, is a 16-year old junior soccer player who is looking at colleges.
“I think about what I would want to hear and what kind of person I would want to send my son off to play for,” Mora said. “It’s very easy for me to talk to these parents because they’re basically my counterpart.”
Mora was prepared for other schools to use his lack of college experience against him. Mora spent 21 seasons as an NFL assistant and head coach.
“They’re going to say, ‘The guy has never coached in college; he doesn’t know how to recruit; he has never coached against the spread offense,’” Mora said. “Before a kid has a chance to think about those things, I tell him how we’re addressing them.”
The lack of recruiting experience didn’t seem to worry players Saturday.
“When he talked to us, it seemed normal,” Westlake Village Oaks Christian’s Ishmael Adams said. “He seemed like he has talked to kids before. He seems to understand the process we’re going through.”
Adams, a defensive back, was one of the top recruits yet to commit who visited UCLA, a group that included Monrovia defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy, Upland wide receiver Kenny Lawler and Saddleback College offensive lineman Kyle Long.
Jordan Simmons of Encino Crespi and Matt Tuerk of Santa Margarita, two top offensive linemen who have committed to USC, were also being wooed.
Mora talked with players as a group before practice and then worked the crowd as the players and their parents watched the Bruins prepare for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
“That was the first time I have talked to him in person today,” said Mission Hills Alemany safety Jerico Richardson, who has committed to UCLA. “I get the feeling he’s a winner.”
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