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Guerrero Puts Athlete in Athletic Director

April 27, 2002|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale introduced Dan Guerrero as UCLA's next athletic director Friday by invoking every exalted ideal imaginable.

He talked about the importance of Guerrero continuing the "breadth and depth of athletics and academics" that he believes separates the school from the competition.

He made it clear that nothing is more important than personal integrity, "both real and perceived."

He assured everyone that a "truly" national search was conducted, that Guerrero was chosen from a list of supremely qualified candidates.

Then Guerrero spoke and the tone swiftly came back to earth. The new athletic director and former Bruin second baseman did not spit tobacco juice, but it quickly became clear he is able to view the world through the lens of an athlete.

"I was a middle infielder and one of the first things you learn when turning a double play is to always expect a bad throw," he said. "Being prepared and anticipating the unexpected is something paramount for an athletic director."

Guerrero, 50, said his first task on taking over for the retired Pete Dalis on July 1 will be to learn the names of every coach, athlete and administrator he will supervise.

"I think the obvious strategy is to develop a relationship with people on staff and with coaches," he said. "That's the way to find out where we are and what needs to be improved. If I don't have buy-in, it's a vision that isn't going anywhere."

Guerrero also came off as a realist, shooting down any dream of building a football stadium on campus while making it clear that improving facilities is near the top of his to-do list.

He projected the comfort and confidence of a man at home, remembering that the first person who recognized his potential as an athletic director was none other than J.D. Morgan.

The baseball team wanted an on-campus stadium and the players confronted the longtime athletic director, displaying little diplomacy. Guerrero was something of a ringleader and Morgan called him to his office the next day.

"His veins were bulging and he had a go at me," Guerrero recalled. "It was an interesting exchange. But he finished by saying, 'Dan, I respect your position and how you represented your team.'"

Six years later, Guerrero was in private business and wrote Morgan a letter saying, "while you probably don't remember me, I want to thank you for your leadership and the impression you made on me."

Morgan wrote back and said, "Dan, I will never forget you. You will make a good athletic director some day."

Guerrero soon got into athletic administration at Cal State Dominguez Hills, eventually became athletic director there, then moved to UC Irvine 10 years ago. He turned the prediction into a reality, and in two months will move into a new office, in the Morgan Center.

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