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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Time for Some Coffee Talk With This Football Coach

November 11, 2003|T.J. Simers

They have added a new "Java City" at the newspaper, ostensibly to help reporters assigned to interview UCLA Coach Karl Dullard stay awake.

Dullard experts recommend the "eye opener" for $1.70 and paying the additional 50 cents for a shot of espresso. Those who cover the Walking Sleeping Pill on a daily basis also suggest packing a couple of cans of Red Bull.

I thought there was a chance he might not know how dull he is, so I asked him at his Monday news conference, "Do you know how dull you appear on the sideline? It's like you have to be poked to see if you're still alive."

"It is emotion," he said of the way he conducts himself, and when I repeated his answer in his own Steven Wright/Gray Davis voice to demonstrate to him what he sounds like: "It is emotion, he said in an unemotional voice," he looked at me empty of all emotion.

The Bruins are looking for a spark on offense, and I sure hope they're not turning toward their head coach. Even if he just yelled once: "Look alive, and do as I say -- not as I do." Obviously, this is not Pete Carroll, who is in enthusiastic command of the No. 2 team in the nation.

As head coach, Dullard is supposed to get his players so fired up they'd want to break down the locker room doors, but then with all the off-the-field problems UCLA has had in the past, maybe that's not such a good idea.

*

I HAD a good Java City buzz when Coach Dullard sat down for his news conference, and noticed UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, who had dropped by to listen, had just downed a can of Dr Pepper, which is loaded with caffeine.

Coach Dullard leaned into the microphone, and it appeared as if he was stumped. Good thing he doesn't call the plays. Maybe he was checking to see if anybody was already snoring. Maybe he realized how ridiculous he was going to sound when he finally opened his mouth.

He began, "I don't think it's right" that reporters asked 10 minutes after Saturday's game who might start at quarterback the next week. So that's why he paused -- he knew how ridiculous he was going to sound when he opened his mouth.

I suppose when Coach Dullard took his place before the media, like every other coach in the country 10 minutes after a game, someone could've beat around the bush and asked about the latest episode of "Average Joe" with the understanding he was talking about the Bruin quarterbacks. Dullard could have also just responded, "I'll have to look at the films first," or, "Does it really matter which stiff we start?"

Instead, he told the media Saturday, "Matt Moore will be our quarterback next week. There is no controversy." On Monday, he blamed the media for talking before thinking.

Then he went on the "Loose Cannons" on XTRA Sports and said it was "miscommunication" on the media's part suggesting there would be no change in starting quarterbacks.

It's one thing to be dull and blame the media for putting your foot in your mouth, quite another to be dull and then distort the truth because you come off sounding like a flake two days later.

Anyway, Drew Olson is starting the next UCLA game because "both quarterbacks are very similar," Dullard said, and "both are quite capable."

Then why bench Olson, as Dullard did a month ago, after Olson had won four in a row, and start Moore, who is "very similar" and apparently just as capable as Olson? More coffee, please.

I was waiting for him to say, "I goofed," or Moore had threatened to transfer, but instead he offered doubletalk and the suggestion that Moore, like the rest of us, has failed to grasp Coach Dullard's offense.

*

A RADIO reporter asked Dullard about his morale. "My morale never changes," he said. "I am status quo all the way through," which explains the cardboard cut-out look along the sideline.

"I have a particular look when I'm on the sideline. I know people want something different, but I have to be me."

But college football places a big emphasis on emotion, enthusiasm

"I just might surprise you and jump on top of one of my players some game," he said, and for the first time he offered a smile and even the hint of a sense of humor. I emphasize, "hint."

I just wish I could be there Saturday 10 minutes after another Bruin loss to ask him who will be starting at quarterback against USC -- like it really matters.

*

BOB SLOAN e-mailed to say, "Did our Mission Bay gentleman have a whale of a game or what?"

If it were me, of course, I'd stick a fork in the Mission Bay Shrimp. That's right, I'd bench the 41-year-old squirt. Doug Flutie is killing the Chargers. He has already cost the Chargers a better draft pick in every round with that win over Minnesota that doubled the Chargers' win total. The only way the Spanos Goofs can put any pressure on San Diego government to get a new stadium is to win and get the small-town fans excited about the Chargers -- so excited once again they'd be afraid of losing their team to Los Angeles.

Like we could care. Up here we eat our shrimp.

*

JUST GOT word from Staples Center that the women's tennis tournament, which no one had any interest in here, is leaving early and going somewhere else after next year. Only one more year to make fun of it -- I miss the women already.

*

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Richard Turnage:

"You failed to note in your performance-enhancing drug column that two pro athletes are already receiving a ton of money for endorsing a drug that boosts performance. NASCAR driver Mark Martin and baseball player Rafael Palmeiro are both paid spokesmen for Viagra."

Do you know how many editors are waiting to see how I respond to this one and whether they'll approve or not? Well, here goes

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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