O’Neil: UCLA’s Jim Mora is the coach who refuses to grow up
As I watched Jim Mora once again stop being an adult on Monday, I thought of Chris Spencer.
You remember him, right?
The Seahawks’ first-round draft pick in 2005. He could have used a coach who defended his toughness back in 2009 when he was snapping with his left hand while playing through a broken right thumb.
Instead, he had Mora.
“We’ve got a center that’s trying to snap with his left hand,” Mora said in December 2009 after Spencer had several errant snaps during a 34-7 loss to Houston, “and has a cast on his right hand, which he’s had on it seems like forever, which I’m not quite sure why he’s still got a cast on his hand, but he does.”
That same coach tried to stake out some moral high ground after UCLA’s practice on Monday when he stated that ESPN color analyst Brock Huard questioned Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen’s toughness.
Now let’s make a couple of things clear.
First, Huard is my co-worker, and while he may not remember the first time we met back in 1995 on the Washington campus, I consider him a really good friend. I am very defensive of him just as I’m certain Mora feels defensive about his players. Well, at least some of his players.
Second, Huard did not question Rosen’s toughness. He raised the question of Rosen’s toughness during the ESPN broadcast, but he didn’t question Rosen’s toughness himself. He didn’t say he thought Rosen could play through his finger injury. He never said Rosen shouldn’t have left the game, and while that might sound like a parsing of hairs, I’m of the belief that people should be criticized for what they actually do as opposed to what people say they do.
And while Mora used the opportunity to take swipes at someone he seems to be harboring some animosity toward, I’m going to point out the pattern this follows: whenever Mora finds himself in a tough spot, especially when his team is losing, he lashes out.
He did it after his third regular-season game as Seahawks head coach when the Seahawks lost a game to Chicago and he blamed his kicker. It happened after the blowout loss to Houston later that season when he seethed about his center’s injured hand. It happened again on Monday after his UCLA team was drop-kicked at Washington.
I used to think that Mora was well-intentioned but overly intense. That he was honest to a fault and his emotions burned so hot that he couldn’t help himself, like that time he had a tense post-game handshake with Kansas State’s Bill Snyder after the Alamo Bowl.
That’s being too charitable, though. He throws temper tantrums like an adolescent in which he blames everyone except himself. He never learned that pointing out the shortcomings of others doesn’t make you taller.
It’s too bad, really. I used to think it was unfortunate the University of Washington never got a chance to hire him to be its head coach.
He was a Husky after all. Played there under Don James, and he held a reverence for the school and that team that resonates with anyone like me who absolutely loves Washington.
Mora was midway through his first season as Atlanta’s head coach when the Huskies decided to move on from Keith Gilbertson, and he already signed a contract to be the Seahawks’ coach in 2009 when Washington fired Tyrone Willingham.
I’ve come to realize that was a bullet Washington dodged, though. You need to be an adult to be in charge of a football program, and Mora continues to show that he has yet to completely grow up.