UCLA’s Jim Mora still inspired by UW legend Don James
LOS ANGELES >> Jim Mora is a man of routine. The same way his former coach Don James was.
As Mora leads UCLA into Saturday’s game against his alma mater Washington on the school’s homecoming weekend, UW will be honoring James, its most celebrated coaching figure, with a statue outside Husky Stadium.
Mora was invited to Friday’s ceremony. He did, after all, close out the funding on the statue, but he won’t be there. Mora will honor James in his own way: by not breaking his normal pregame routine, just as his former coach might have done.
In 18 years at Washington, James won the 1991 national championship and four Rose Bowls in six appearances. His coaching tree includes Alabama’s Nick Saban, former Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel and Mora, among others, and as Mora returns to face the No. 12 Huskies more than 30 years since his playing career ended, he still consistently channels his former coach’s teachings.
“There’s really not many days that I’m doing something and something doesn’t click in my mind: ‘How would Coach James have handled this?’” said Mora, who has known the James family since he was 5 or 6 years old. “That’s just how I’m built. I was really lucky to be around him from an early age all the way throughout my career.”
James, who died in 2013 from pancreatic cancer, was a no-nonsense disciplinarian known for extreme attention to detail. It took him 38 seconds to walk from his office to the podium in the team meeting room, Mora remembers. Meetings always started right on time. Never a second early and definitely never a second late.
Mora, whose pregame routine always includes a run on the stadium steps, tries to be the same way.
“Coach Mora always says that you can’t make the kids accountable if the coaches […]