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He's in there swinging again with Jim Mora

But this time, instead of a football news conference, it's at Mora's charity golf tournament, where a different side of the UCLA coach comes out.

May 25, 2013|T.J. Simers
  • Says UCLA football Coach Jim Mora of the charity efforts with his wife: "You know, for Shannon and me, it's about only one thing: encouraging others to give."
Says UCLA football Coach Jim Mora of the charity efforts with his wife: "You… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

UCLA football Coach Jim Mora invited me to play in his golf tournament.

I suspect your reaction is about the same as the look on Dan Guerrero's face when I showed up Monday.

Funny thing too, I got a lot of strange, menacing stares as I walked through a Riviera Country Club ballroom packed with UCLA honks gathered for charity.

I just pulled my USC cap down a little tighter on my head and forged forward.

For the YouTube crowd, Mora and I last clashed after UCLA's first loss to Stanford. I raised the hope that Mora had thrown the game so folks might think there was still a chance of beating Stanford a week later.

Mora said he would never do such a thing.

But he certainly wasn't opposed to making sure my team in his tournament had no chance of winning.

He stuck me with four rummies, one guy who has to be getting ready to celebrate his 100th birthday and a caddie in Exael Catrejon who couldn't find my opening drive. And it went only 20 yards.

We were even assigned a volunteer scorekeeper, Vance Mills, who wouldn't cheat. Not your typical charity golf tournament, that's for sure.

But then I know what Mora is capable of doing. So I'm not surprised UCLA offensive whiz Noel Mazzone's group won the tournament — for the second consecutive year.

Whatever it takes, as I told him, including the promotion of Mazzone's son, Taylor, to keep the quarterback guru from leaving UCLA.

Mora laughed, and we have done that plenty together over the last 27 years.

"I think I won the Stanford press conference," Mora said, and now it was my turn to laugh. He never wins when we disagree.

"That's because you always get the last word in the paper," Mora said, and I never said he wasn't bright.

While most everyone had Mora and me pegged as enemies last season, it was just business as usual during a lifetime stretch of teasing and barking at each other.

I mentioned Mora's name to UCLA administrators every time they went looking for a new football coach, believing Mora was better suited to college athletics than the NFL.

Maybe it took the realization Guerrero would be the next one fired if he didn't get it right to finally hire Mora.

Guerrero will tell you he thought of it all by himself, but I just have to mention the hiring of Steve Alford to demonstrate what happens when Guerrero thinks for himself.

Anyone who attended Mora's fixed tournament for his "Count on Me Family Foundation," knows now he's nothing like the headstrong, one-note macho football drone during the season.

OK, so he's always headstrong.

"You know how emotional I get and how much I want the best for these kids," he said, and I know he is his father's son.

So we battle on, as we did in a small room with no one else present when he was making sure the refrigerator was filled for assistant coaches and I was writing about Chargers mismanagement.

We have our differences, and we will battle again — especially if he publicly berates a PR guy again.

But when he gushes about wanting to make a difference in the lives of young people, he means it. Spend five minutes with him and it's easy to see why he's an effective recruiter.

He invited Lane Kiffin to play, and how cool is that? I'm not surprised to learn Kiffin can't play golf; I've never seen him do anything but look at his play chart.

He invited Rick Neuheisel, who did play.

"I know how tough it had to be; I coached Seattle, my home and I felt like I let people down," Mora said. "But Rick is a great Bruin, his son plays for us and I appreciate him being here."

Mora's name was on the tourney, but it was really the work of his dynamo wife, Shannon.

I no longer think I'm tougher on him than anyone else.

"There are so many who need help; look at Oklahoma," Mora said. "You know, for Shannon and me, it's about only one thing: encouraging others to give."

So how come he never gives me a break?

I purposely posed it in the form of a question.

"You had permission all day long to make statements," said Mora, who publicly chided me last season for not asking questions or being the good stenographer and writing down all his non-answers.

"Maybe this year you should start every press conference saying, 'Question,' or 'Statement,' " he joked, and as often as I predict UCLA will lose this year, I told him, I don't think he'll be amused.

And we were arguing again, a scheduled five-minute call turning into a 50-minute exchange of bluster.

Which I won.

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