March 17, 2003
Dan Guerrero Press Conference Quotes
March 17, 2003
"Good afternoon. Well, as you all know, this morning Steve Lavin was released from his position as head basketball coach here at UCLA. We met for breakfast this morning and basically went through the exercise officially. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Steve for the 12 years of service here at UCLA. There were some significant achievements during the course of his time as a head coach here. This year has obviously been a very trying year, and Steve acted with great dignity through some very difficult times. And from a personal perspective, I certainly want to wish him the very best in the future. In terms of our situation here and why we're here, obviously you've all chronicled this situation over the past several weeks and in some respects over the past several years, so rather than have me talk a little bit more about that, I'll open it up for questions."
(On whether the firing was only a matter of time)
"Well, I had indicated in the very beginning that I would evaluate the program over the course of an entire year, looking at the entire body of work. I've been leaning towards this decision over the past several weeks. But clearly the decision to allow Steve to coach through the entire year - I know that was an issue that was raised earlier in the year - was one that I felt very strongly about. So ultimately, it came to the point that I felt that we needed to move forward."
(On what he wants in the next head coach)
"In the press release it indicated that we would like to see UCLA Basketball rise to the level of the nation's elite. And we'd like to hire a coach that can get us to that point. What that means in a general sense is that a program offers a level of consistency. It gives us the best opportunity, frankly, to get to a Final Four and hopefully gives you the opportunity to compete for a national championship. In order for that to occur, you need to have consistency throughout the year. That means in your non-conference schedule you need to be firing on all cylinders and beat some teams early that you have to beat. When you get into conference, you need to finish at the top of your conference so you put yourself into a position to get the highest seed in the post-season tournament. And obviously when you play in the Pac-10 Conference Tournament, if you do well it creates momentum getting you into the NCAA Tournament. And I think the numbers will show that those institutions that have had higher seeds have the best opportunity to advance in the tournament. And that's pretty much what we are looking to see."
(On whether UCLA "is willing to pay the amount of money required for a coach of that caliber")
"I don't know what that amount is. What I would say is we're going to look at a number of candidates, and we're going to negotiate with that individual who we feel can get us to that level."
(On whether the experience of hiring a head football coach translates)
"I've hired a lot of coaches over the years, and certainly this is a much higher profile search. During the coach of the last several weeks, there have obviously been a lot of phone calls to my office and a lot of emails and faxes and things of that nature from individuals that were anticipating this decision being made. And obviously the response has been the card is close to the vest and we have a coach that we're hoping will succeed. So there's obviously interest out there, and now it's my responsibility to move forward and ascertain the level of interest from those candidates that we feel might be able to make an impact here."
"It's quite possible that we won't have a person named until after the Final Four. There may be some candidates that are in the tournament, and we would have to go through the proper protocol and contact athletic directors and things of that nature."
(On whether the procedure used to hire the new football coach will be used)
"It could be a different procedure. The thing that will remain the same is I would like for the Chancellor to meet any candidate that I'd like to move forward. I think it's appropriate that that happens. This is a high level hire for us, and he needs to have the confidence in me that the right person is selected."
"We don't intend to publicly disclose (the names of) any candidates. You all do a good job of flushing those kinds of things out. I anticipate that you will do that again."
(Was there a final straw with Steve or was he gone before the season started?)
"No, there was not a final straw, and he was not gone. I did not come into this scenario with any pre-conceived notions other than how I really wanted our team to play, which was firing out every night, being tough-minded and playing hard and obviously succeeding to the best of our abilities. And while we had a good run there late in the year, it once again was reflective of a theme and a pattern, which is (having) our teams really kind of peaking late. And when I talk about the kind of consistency that I think we need to be able to reach the level that we'd like, that was not consistent with that."
(On Steve's shortcomings as a coach)
"It's not really important to reveal shortcomings or things of that nature. I had to come to a decision where I'm replacing him as a coach. Frankly, Steve and I have had a very good relationship during the course of this year. Another time, another situation, a different environment, things of that nature, maybe things may have been different. But where we are now dictated that I had to make this decision, and now I'm just looking forward to who we might be able to bring in to better the situation."
(On his reaction to Steve joking about successors)
"This has been a very trying year for every involved with UCLA Basketball, including Steve and the players. There are a number of ways that you deal with that kind of stress. Some people might become very bitter, some people might point fingers, some people might try to turn the team against the university or whatever, and Steve never did that. Steve's way of dealing with the situation was to be forthright, be accessible, and in a lot of way to be humorous. And sometimes in his attempt to be humorous, people misinterpreted that as taking a shot at the university or taking a shot at the athletic director, and things of that nature. I never saw that. Because when you filter through everything, what Steve always said is that he thinks this is a great institution, and he's loved the experience he's had here."
(On what the tone of his meeting with Steve was)
"The tone was very good. I think Steve's in a good place - as good a place as you can be in when you're losing your job. But we've always had a good relationship, and we've talked a lot during the course of this year, and always trying to find ways to make situations better. The fact that Steve's attitude has been so positive as we've gone through this has really helped this situation of where we are now."
(On whether over the course of the season Steve had been given an indication that a change was going to be made)
"Never. We never talked about anything other than trying to keep the guys positive, seeing if there were ways he might be able to try something different to make the team more successful. It was always focused on the here and now, the next opponent, things of that nature. I think Steve was well aware of the kind of program we'd like to see here. Unfortunately, this was a year that didn't allow for those kinds of things to occur."
(Will coaches not participating in the Tournament be contacted before the Tournament ends?)
"It's likely that we may have some contact with candidates that are not in the tournament."
(Will there be a pool of advisors for the coaching search?)
"I will consult with a number of people, certainly people close to the UCLA Basketball family."
(What kind of results would you like to see in the next coach?)
"It always starts with integrity, and first and foremost that's what we're looking for in this program. Just in a general sense, we're talking about someone who has the kind of experience that can build and develop, that can compete on a high level nationally, that understands this kind of an environment, the constraints and barriers, if there are any, certainly from an academic standpoint and things of that nature, to recruit the kind of student-athletes here who can be successful, both on the court and in the classroom."
(Because you and Steve have such a good relationship, did that make it easier on you this morning?)
"Very much so. It was, for lack of a better term, almost surreal. We had a very pleasant conversation, we had breakfast, we talked about a number of things outside of this particular scenario and how it would play out. And I would not be surprised if we have a lot more of those kinds of those kinds of meetings in the future."
(Was it almost like a sigh of relief?)
"It's never easy to do this. This is a very difficult part of the job of an athletic director. But I love this university, and I felt we had to make that decision to be able to make this university and the basketball program the kind we would all like to see. Steve understood that. He talked about fresh starts for both of us. He understood the nature of this business and why I had to make this decision. Obviously, he's very fond of this place and very fond of the kids and believes that we have a chance to be really good in the future."
(How much did the waning attendance factor into the decision)
"That's a byproduct of what has transpired over the year in terms of consistency and lack thereof, and the effort that we put out this year. We frankly were not a real solid team early in the year, and UCLA fans I know want to see a consistently strong effort more than anything else. And so as I indicated that was a byproduct of it."