Pac-12: Sal Alosi

Pac-12 lunch links: It's track season

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
3:00
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I'm Kevin Nealon, and that's news to me.
The system of checks and balances is working in Los Angeles. Just consider new UCLA coach Jim Mora's recent hiring of a new new strength and conditioning coach.

The media in Los Angeles is calling attention to a horrible — and infamous — mistake Sal Alosi made when he worked for the New York Jets. It is opining on the riskiness of Mora's hire.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
Nick Ut/AP PhotoUCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, left, poses with new head football coach Jim Mora on Dec. 13, 2011.
That is good. That is the media doing its job, holding public figures accountable for their actions.

And Mora and Alosi are talking about the hiring. They are not hiding.

"I understand the criticism, I expect the criticism, it's completely warranted," Mora told LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke. "But I know the fiber of this man."

That is good: Public figures stepping forward to explain themselves in a controversial situation.

And, by the way, well said, Jim.

I love Mora's hire here all the more, even without knowing a whole lot about Alosi as a strength coach, other than that he seems highly respected by a number of NFL players.

As you long-time readers know, I am a big second-chance guy. I believed LeGarrette Blount deserved a second chance. I believed Rick Neuheisel deserved a second chance. I think the ranting and raving of absolutists who act like everything is black-and-white is a pose, one that my life experience has often found to be situational and hypocritical.

But this isn't about praising Mora for giving a guy a second chance. It's about Mora doing what he wants to do with his team and not fretting the PR angles. This is a revealing moment that Bruins fans should feel good about.

Here's a secret of all good head coaches: They insist on autonomy. They hire who they want to hire. They don't allow administrators to dictate whom they hire. Sure, there are obvious parameters -- felonies and NCAA violations tend to disqualify assistant coaching candidates. But the quickest and surest path to failure is a new head coach taking a job and then being steered to hire assistants he doesn't know.

Perhaps the most important quality for a head coach is being a good CEO, and the first thing a good CEO does is hire the right people. He needs to build a cohesive unit that functions efficiently. To do that, he needs to know whom he's hiring. How he works. How he takes suggestions and criticism. How he teaches and motivates. His work ethic, both on the field and in recruiting.

Further, it's also about loyalty. An assistant who isn't connected to a head coach often feels little reason not to undermine him "off-the-record" if things get tough.

The worst case I can think of was Terry Bowden at Auburn back in the 1990s. His fatal mistake was retaining assistants who worked for Pat Dye. That became a train wreck of epic proportions.

UCLA fans are well-aware of another: Neuheisel's second chance was a dream — coaching his alma mater — that turned into a nightmare, in large part because he agreed to hire Norm Chow as his offensive coordinator and retain DeWayne Walker as his defensive coordinator. Chow and Walker are outstanding coaches, no doubt. But they weren't Neuheisel's guys. A major part of the problem in Westwood the past four years was a lack of cohesion on the Bruins coaching staff.

Obviously, this isn't the same thing. We're talking about a strength coach, not a coordinator. But I am choosing to freight the hiring of Alosi with meaning, meaning that speaks well of Mora and the early — early! — trajectory of his tenure.

Mora wanted to hire Alosi. He knew there would be some negative blowback, and not without justification. But he met that blowback head-on, and now he's got a the strength coach he wanted.

And he's got a strength coach who probably feels pretty darn obligated to bust his rear end and repay Mora's faith in him with a finely conditioned football team.

UCLA filling out its staff

January, 9, 2012
1/09/12
5:53
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New UCLA coach Jim Mora now only has one vacancy on his staff -- defensive coordinator -- after he announced two hirings on Monday.

Mora hired Eric Yarber to coach receivers and Sal Alosi as "coordinator of strength and conditioning-football," a new position at UCLA.

Mora also announced a shift in the responsibilities for Angus McClure, who's being moved from special teams coach/recruiting coordinator to defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator. That represents a change of thinking for Mora, because Inoke Breckterfield was initially retained as defensive line coach. The official release on the hirings said Breckterfield "will have the opportunity to remain on the staff in a football operations role."

Yarber most recently served as the wide receivers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Raheem Morris. He attended Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles and then Los Angeles Valley College before transferring to Idaho. Recently, he's coached at Arizona State under Dennis Erickson (2007-09) and at Washington under Tyrone Willingham (2005-06).

Alosi, a former New York Jets and Hofstra University strength and conditioning coach, played linebacker at Hofstra from 1996-2000. He coached the Jets’ special teams from 2002-2005 and 2007-2010. In his second stint in New York, he was on the same staff as new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. In 2006, he was a member of Mora’s coaching staff with the Atlanta Falcons.

McClure has been at UCLA for five years. He came to UCLA after serving as the offensive line/run game coordinator on Turner Gill's Buffalo staff during the 2006 season.

As for defensive coordinator, Mora was on the cusp of hiring San Diego Chargers' linebackers coach John Pagano before Pagano was promoted by the Chargers to defensive coordinator last week. UCLA said in the statement that Mora will announce his defensive coordinator before the end of the week.

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