On Saturday, Jim Mora faced a tough opponent in Stanford, and an even more aggressive one in L.A. Times reporter T.J. Simers.
Simers simply wouldn’t leave Mora alone during the UCLA coach’s post-game press conference after losing to Stanford. Simers went out of his way to badger, poke, prod and incite Mora while the rest of the room was doing their job in trying to get answers out of the Bruins’ head coach after the loss.
Simers had an idea in his head for an article and wanted to push Mora until he got enough quotes to complete his agenda. Simers wanted to prove that the Bruins had thrown the game against Stanford.
Mora and his UCLA players did face an unusual circumstance on Saturday. If they beat the Stanford Cardinal, they would face the Oregon Ducks in the inaugural Pac 12 Championship Game, but if they lost, they would face Stanford for a second week in a row.
It would make sense to a certain degree for UCLA to let Stanford win to better their chances of winning the Pac 12 and therefore make it to the Rose Bowl. Stanford would have to give it their all against UCLA, and the Bruins would be able to dissect what they saw in Stanford’s game plan, while not giving their own game plan away.
Simers first asked, or stated, that the Bruins played out their first series competitively, and then went into “preseason game mode” by not showing too much, while also attempting to intentionally lose the game. Mora disagreed with the theory.
“No, because we’re competitors,” Mora said. “Those guys in there don’t spend all the time that they spend preparing for a game in the offseason, during the week, the sacrifices they make, to go out and not try to win every opportunity – that’s what they did.”
Simers’ next question regarded whether Mora would rather face Oregon or Stanford. At this point, it should have been obvious he wasn’t going to get the intended response out of Mora, but it was worth trying.
“No. It didn’t matter,” Mora responded to Simers. “We wanted to win this game today. The objective was to win the game today, and we didn’t do it. We came up short. But to insinuate that our players didn’t give their best effort would be incorrect.”
The problem was that Simers would let Mora finish, nor would he let him give the answer that he wanted to give.
Things got heated a couple times between Mora and Simers when the reporter told Mora to stop looking around for help when Simers thought the UCLA coach was dodging his question. Mora told Simers to pull up a chair at the press conference if he wanted to make statements, rather than ask questions and Simers replied that Mora wouldn’t want that.
“This is a press conference where you ask questions. If you want to come up, take the mic and make all your statements. There’s a seat here and seat here. It’d be great. I’d love to have you up here. You don’t scare me.”
It was a legitimate question by Simers over whether or not UCLA was trying to avoid Oregon and play Stanford two weeks in a row, while also scoping their game plan. But Simers only had to ask Mora once, and there was no need to try to incite the Bruins’ head coach. Simers made the press conference about himself rather than the game that had just been played, or the Pac 12 championship the next week.
The worst part of Simers’ behavior during the press conference was his confrontational nature. While it was annoying to hear Simers keep harping on the story that he chose to write that day, it was embarrassing to hear Simers tell Mora not to look away from him, and say threateningly that Mora would not want the reporter to sit next to him in front of the press. Mora kept his cool as well as he possibly could have, which was admirable, since Mora is known as a fiery head coach — and Simers was obviously trying to get that fiery nature to come out.
You can see the confrontation between Silers and Mora in the video below.