Dual Q&A with Mike Johnson & Joe Tresey, ctd.

What did you know about UCLA, as a school, and this current team?
Mike Johnson: “I knew we had a certain level of talent. I knew we had certain skill positions that were talented. I knew we were still trying to find our way from a passing standpoint. I knew that we were a team that lacked confidence. But I looked at it and saw certain things that I could make a change in. I felt like I could come in and change some of the things that were wrong, especially from a mindset standpoint. Changing the way they saw themselves, changing the way they see UCLA as a university. Teach some of the history of and tradition, what it means to wear those letters across your chest. I grew up in Los Angeles. I knew all about the UCLA football and the glory days. I knew about UCLA basketball, baseball, all the championships UCLA has had. You’re sitting in the heart of Los Angeles, with a strong recruiting base. If you can recruit the right kids from a character standpoint throughout LA to come in and rep u well, I think program can change quickly.”

Joe Tresey: “The only thing I knew is I grew up at 12 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon in November and Ohio State played Michigan and at 4 o’clock, USC played UCLA. I watched it for I don’t know how many years. To me, UCLA was always a very good school, traditionally, athletically. You had the track and the basketball, the football. Growing up, we didn’t have the internet, and there wasn’t ESPN, so there were only a couple games on the weekend. You had the basketball games on quite a bit, and you had John Wooden. You knew you had Dick Vermiel, you had Terry Donahue. Two guys right there in our profession, you knew were great coaches. Then when you looked at who came out of UCLA over the years, from an offensive and defensive standpoint, starting with Gary Beban really. That’s the first one I knew. I didn’t know Jackie Robinson played football here; I knew Rafer Johnson was a great Olympian in the decathlon. But when people have that type of status, they leave a lasting impression. That’s what I knew about UCLA.
Now? Nothing. Not a thing.”

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UCLA names Cori Close women’s basketball coach

UCLA announced the hire of new women’s basketball coach Cori Close on Thursday, as Close takes the reins from Nikki Caldwell, who took the head coaching position at LSU in April.

“It is such a joy to be here,” said Close, who served as associate head coach at Florida State since 2004-05. “I remember back to when I was an athlete, and I was driving down from UCSB to play UCLA, and I’m driving in the team bus, and my teammate’s father called, ‘Do you know what you get to do today? You’re going down to the basketball mecca, where basketball starts. UCLA sets the standard for college basketball in this country. I remember how clearly we understood what an amazing opportunity it was.”

Now she gets the opportunity to return to the place where she started her collegiate coaching career as a restricted earnings coach for the Bruins from 1993-1995.

Her first task? Building on the progress that Caldwell made in her short stint as head coach at UCLA. Before Caldwell arrived, the Bruins struggled to become a presence in the Pac-10, much less nationally. But the program rebounded under Caldwell, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament each of the last two years, finishing second in conference play and the conference tournament.

Close brings her extensive offensive knowledge to the Bruins, who lose the service of guards Darxia Morris and Doreena Campbell but retain forwards Jasmine Dixon, Markel Walker and Atonye Nyingifa.

“This is a very unique opportunity I have because this program is not broken,” Close said. “This program has great talent, and I have the opportunity to take the baton. I was sharing with players earlier that my expectations really mirror what’s going on at Pauley Pavilion. I love that we’re renovating and restoring and preserving Pauley Pavilion. We’re not starting over. There’s incredible rich tradition, foundational things in place that we are preserving. But we’re also adding to it. We’re adding new traditions. We’re adding spice to it.
“That’s where I feel our women’s basketball program is now.”

Close helped lead the Seminoles to seven straight appearances in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2009-10 and a Sweet 16 berth in 2006-07. Close also coached at UC Santa Barbara, her alma mater, from 1995-2004, with eight consecutive NCAA Tournament berths.

“Cori has established herself as one of the top women’s basketball associate head coaches in the nation and is certainly ready to take the next step,” UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. “Cori has enjoyed great success at Florida State and UC Santa Barbara, on the court, off the court and on the recruiting trail, and has a great vision for the future of our program. She will continue to build upon the foundation that has been established over the last few years.”

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Dual Q&A with Mike Johnson & Joe Tresey, ctd.

Do you care more about execution or do you care about talent? Would you rather have a guy who does things the right way 100 percent of the time, or someone who does someone better, but only 50 percent of the time?

Mike Johnson: “I want the team that executes. I want the team that plays the best together, collectively. I you do that consistently, that team will have a chance to win every game. It’s not always the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best every single game.
The hardest thing to do in sports is to execute a football play. It is harder to get 11 guys to be synchronized doing the right things, moving in the right direction every single play. And that is why I love coaching football.”

Joe Tresey: “You’re talking about a guy who has got a heart as big as the room, but sometimes get it done? You want consistency. That’s what you want. The give-and-take is, like you say, the guy who doesn’t have it every down you want, but has more talent. You have to evaluate that. Even though he doesn’t have it every down, does he have enough to win football games for you? Versus, the guy who can’t win a game for you but is in the right place every time. I think that’s an evaluation process. The whole key to coaching is getting a guy, whoever that is, to get it going every time. And being smart enough to know when you’re going to sub him, when you’re going to rest him. And if you give him rest, and he still can’t do it, what you hope is the next man in is going to have enough talent and competitive juices that he’ll be able to pass that guy eventually. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning. We all know that, and we want our best players on the field. It comes down to, is your best player always your best player? Or is he your best player in certain situations?”

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Dual Q&A with Mike Johnson & Joe Tresey, ctd.

Was the first step for you here just to start building relationships with players?

Mike Johnson: “That is where I’ve started. Everything in life revolves around relationships. In order for me to take this offense where we want to take it, then I think it starts with building healthy strong relationship built on trust. Built on communication, built on collective responsibility, built on caring, built on pride. All those things are part of the relationship. I believe that before I can discipline them the way I need to discipline them, you need to establish trust and that relationship, so that they know when you come down hard on them, the bond is not broken.”

Joe Tresey: “From a philosophical standpoint, we’re really trying to build relationships with players and get to know them on personal level as much as possible. The hard thing is I got hired so late, I didn’t get much time with them before spring ball. I will get more time with spring ball is out, get to know them on a personal level. And they’ll get to know me, too. I think you have to build that trust.
I think the most important thing is building relationships with your players. It’s been kind of hectic. I haven’t been able to do that as well as I wish I could.”

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More from Johnson/Tresey Q&A

2) What is your core coaching philosophy?
Mike Johnson: “My overall offensive philosophy probably would be a balanced attack. I want to be able to run the ball effectively. And there are a number of ways to do that. You can run a power run game, a spread run game, where you have zone principles. I just believe in running the ball effectively. I believe in having a strong run-action passing game. Everything you run in the run game should have a pass-action that comes off of it. And a protection that is sound to protect the quarterback and give him the opportunity to make those throws.
You have to stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically. You have to make the defense defend the entire field. You have to have plays go a certain ways then misdirection. Reverses, screens, all those things to combat what a defense does to you.
That goes into the balanced attack – you want to run it, throw it and stretch the field both horizontally and vertically.”

Joe Tresey: “I think the most important thing at our level is that players have to be able to play fast. That’s my No. 1 deal. They have to play fast. You can be good fundamentally, you can be very good athletically. But if you don’t – when the ball is snapped and you can’t react and play fast in this scenario -your chances of success diminish.

I think the second thing is playing with great effort. Yeah, you got kids who are athletic and they can play fast, but is their motor going to run every down, every snap they’re in there? We really want high-motor guys, high-energy guys, guys who play very urgent. We’re trying to build that just running on and off the field. Ones, twos; ones, twos. That’s a mindset. That creates an urgent mindset. Everything we try to do, we try to do with urgency because I believe you can condition your mind to become an urgent person, when you need to be.

So I think playing fast, playing with great effort is extremely important. I think communication is huge. You notice I haven’t even talked scheme or tackling or fundamentals. I’d say communication is huge. If the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing, and they’re not on the same page, that’s when people get out of gaps, people blow assignments. Communication is huge. We’re trying to get our guys to understand that.
Just up front, when you’re running a game between one another, there’s got to be communication. When you’re running a stunt, there’s got to be communication between the linebacker and the guy up front, because gaps are changing, their gap is changing. We’re a gap-oriented defense. In the secondary, just reminding the corners, cloud fours, the safety talking to the corner, the corner talking to the safety. I think when you’re able to articulate your responsibility, not only does it help the person next to you, but it reinforces what your responsibility is. That’s really important.

And then, from a fundamental aspect, being able to meet and beat blocks. Being able to come to balance in space. Those are all very dear to my heart.”

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Post-Practice Update

* UCLA’s last big practice before the spring game was a lively one, with a number of nice plays and a few skirmishes.

* A really productive day for both Morrell Presley and Anthony Barr, and with their respective skill sets, UCLA would be nuts not to use them often. Say you have 70 offensive plays – between Presley, Barr, Cory Harkey and Joseph Fauria, they should see the ball 15 times. I know that’s combining the F-back and tight end positions…but don’t they basically do that anyway?

* Barr had a couple moves in heavy traffic that I haven’t seen from him, and he seems to be building confidence.

* It was also the Ricky Marvray show today, as he caught a number of passes in both team drills and 7-on-7 action. As I said to a fellow reporter, you come to a UCLA practice, and you’d think Marvray was Marvin Harrison.

* The offensive line was dreadful in the two-minute drill session at the end of practice, and got stern talkings-to from offensive coordinator Mike Johnson. Meanwhile, Richard Brehaut and Brett Hundley did fairly well with limited time in the pocket, though Neuheisel came down hard on Hundley a couple times. Overall, it was not a crisp offensive performance.

* RS Freshman OL Wade Yandall is out with a concussion, Rick Neuheisel said.

* Neuheisel said Sean Sheller, Kai Maiava, John Young, Damien Thigpen and Yandall wouldn’t play in Saturday’s scrimmage. He added that Tony Dye could see limited action.

* Stan Hasiak and Damien Holmes mixed it up once, but Hasiak ended it pretty quickly – man, has that kid matured – and there was a tiff between Jordan Zumwalt and Taylor Embree. Pretty standard stuff, though.

* Lastly, gotta say, I was impressed by Nick Crissman today, who looked good in his limited action.

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More from Johnson/Tresey Q&A

What’s been missing here, and why are you the man to fix it?
Joe Tresey: “I can’t tell you what’s been missing here, and I really don’t care. I really don’t care. Can we change yesterday? Nope. We can only change today, in hopes that the change we make today, makes tomorrow better.”

Mike Johnson: “I think the one thing that I can fix is the mindset. I think I can fix the mindset, I think I can fix the problem with work ethic, and I think I can fix the problem of self esteem. Collectively as a group we coach fundamentals and technique, but I think we will ourselves entirely different going into the season than we did in the past. That is important to understand who you are and what you are. I think we have really undersold how good we can be. I don’t think you can go overboard with that. I think you have to be consistent and understand exactly who you are and what you are. If you have the potential to be good, you have to walk that way.”

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