Apparently, coaching the Huskies is no longer Jim L. Mora’s “dream job,” but leveraging the Washington vacancy certainly was a dream come true. Mora not only rebuffed a rumored attempt to replace Steve Sarkisian at Washington, who quit Monday in order to take the USC job, he signed a six-year contract extension Tuesday with the Bruins.
Mora, a Washington graduate and letterman defensive back who walked on from Interlake High School in Bellevue, began his coaching career with the Huskies as a graduate assistant under Don James in the mid-1980s and spent 25 years coaching in the NFL, including with the Seattle Seahawks. His name quickly rose to the top of the speculative list of candidates after Sarkisian bailed after five years at Washington.
When Mora coached the Atlanta Falcons in 2006, he said in a radio interview with KJR, “If that (Washington) job’s open, you’ll find me at the friggin’ head of the line with my resume in hand ready to take that job.” Mora later claimed he was only joking.
After the Falcons fired Mora, he moved to Seattle, first as an assistant, then head coach of the Seahawks in 2009. The Seahawks fired him after a 5-11 season, replacing him with Pete Carroll. Mora returned to the big time in 2012 when he took over for a former Huskies coach, Rick Neuheisel, at UCLA.
Mora has had two 9-3 seasons at UCLA, including wins each year over USC, prompting him to say, “We own LA.” So now it’s on with Sark. Mora made $2.3 million in 2013, about what Sarkisian made at Washington. Both are in for big raises. Mora’s announcement came nearly simultaneously with the USC press conference introducing Sarkisian.
While Mora was considered Monday by some as the frontrunner for the Washington job, several others have surfaced as potential Sarkisian replacements, including Doug Nussmeier, Alabama’s offensive coordinator and a former Husky assistant to Sarkisian; Gary Pinkel, coach at Missouri and a UW assistant from 1979-90; Chris Petersen, Boise State’s head coach, and Justin Wilcox, Washington’s defensive coordinator.
Pinkel, whose Tigers are No. 5 in the BCS standings and likely bound for the Sugar Bowl, turned down the Washington job in 2008 after Tyrone Willingham was fired. He was also considered for the vacancy in 1998 after Lambright was fired. The job was filled by Neuheisel.
Carroll said he is “thrilled” that Sarkisian, his former Trojan assistant, got the USC job.
“This is a life-long dream for him,” Carroll told ESPN 710 Tuesday morning. “As a kid that grew up in Southern California, there’s no coach that they could have hired that understands LA better, and what that’s all about. That’s my opinion. He has a tremendous sense for the area and the schools and the coaches and the traditions and all of that. It’s why it was such a big deal for him to get this opportunity.
“He had a great time here in Washington. He loved it and did a great job with them. But it’s just a chance to go home and do it at a great university.”