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UCLA's New Coach: Football In His Blood


By Paul Feinberg '85

Published Apr 1, 2012 8:00 AM


Coach Jim Mora. Photo by: Don Liebig

For decades, UCLA has made it its business to hire football coaches with a connection to the Bruin family. Now, with the hiring of Jim Mora, the Bruins have hired someone for whom coaching is the family business.

"Every meal I've ever eaten and every stitch of clothes that I've ever put on have been because of football, from the day that I was born until today," says Mora, son of former NFL head coach Jim Mora. "It's what the Moras do."

Prior to coming to Westwood, Mora, 50, spent two years as a broadcaster, the only time in his life when the outcomes of games didn't matter to him. "That gives you a snapshot of what football means to me," he says. Previously, Mora served as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons, leading the latter to the NFC title game.

He'll need all that experience and more to revive the Bruin football program's fortunes. UCLA has fired three head coaches in 10 years and hasn't won the Rose Bowl in a generation. The only times Mora has seen his new team play lately were UCLA's 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl loss to Illinois in December, right after he accepted the job, and a blowout loss in Seattle two years ago when he showed up to watch his alma mater, the University of Washington, beat UCLA.

"I don't have a strong feeling about who they are as a football team," Mora says. "I'll form my opinions going forward based on what I see, when I observe their will to win."

A lifelong disciple of John Wooden, Mora keeps a file of Coach's teachings, and when Mora accepted the UCLA job, his brother immediately sent him a photo of his young nephew wearing the actual No. 5 jersey that Bruin legend Kenny Easley wore during his senior year. And to study up on coaching at the collegiate level, Mora has sought the counsel of fellow UCLA coaches, including men's basketball leader Ben Howland, women's gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field '87 and baseball coach John Savage.

"It's important for me to learn from them and see if there are things we can incorporate into our philosophy when dealing with student-athletes," the new football coach explains. "My dad impressed upon me that I need to always be studying other coaches. I'm looking forward to being part of this community, having relationships with other coaches, going out and supporting our teams."

The Bruins have a favorable schedule in 2012, with seven home games, but their opponents include some tough challenges, such as Nebraska, USC and Stanford. Even so, Jim Mora's horizon extends far beyond that.

"Long term, I want to be a team that competes for Pac-12 and national championships," he concludes. "Between now and then, there are a lot of steps to be taken, but if you don't set your sights high, you limit yourself."