Former UCLA star Lewis praises Bruins coach Mora
JUN 15, 2013 3:51p ET
“He’s awesome,” Lewis said. “I feel like, I don’t want him to leave, but a guy that good that can turn around a program that fast, they normally don’t stick around that long in college.”
In his first season at the helm, Mora led the Bruins to a 9-5 record, an upset over USC and a Pac-12 South title. Mora, who grew up in the NFL, brought a high-voltage and exciting offense as well as a defense that made plays when they counted. Simply put, Mora made the Bruins an exciting team after a lackluster run under former head coach Rick Neuheisel.
“He’s implemented an NFL mindset,” Lewis said. “They’re playing fast, tough and together. That’s always good to see.”
But following the breakout year, Mora was approached for more lucrative opportunities, most notably SEC powers Auburn and Tennessee. He turned them down and has said several times that he feels he can build a BCS title contender in Westwood.
Mora also restored the spark to the program that had lost its way, which is what caught Lewis’ eye last season.
“The fight,” Lewis said. “Before Mora was there, it was kind of – you never knew what to expect. They would start out good and then slack off in the end or vice versa. He has them thinking like machines right now and that’s how it should be.”
Lewis reflected back to the 2005 season in which the Bruins finished 10-2 and ranked No. 16 in the AP poll. The season ended with a thrilling comeback victory over Northwestern in the Sun Bowl.
Lewis used to wonder if the Bruins would ever have a season like that. He wants to see his Alma Mater surpass that.
“Our last great year was 2005 before Mora got there,” Lewis said. “It’s actually fun to see him in there and have those guys thinking one mindset – and that’s to win ball games.”
Mora and Lewis both run children’s charities. It’s a common bond the two coaches share and they talk frequently about one another’s charity events and appearances.
But Lewis is hoping that the next conversation the two have is about a Rose Bowl appearance.
Or a contract extension.
“I hope he’s there for a little while and keeps that school doing what they’re doing. I expect nothing less,” Lewis said. “But I don’t see him staying there. He’s too good.”