EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — UConn athletic director David Benedict spent almost a week in Idaho visiting with Jim Mora and talking football and life, before deciding that he'd found the right man to become the Huskies' head coach.
While many things about the former UCLA and NFL coach impressed Benedict, what may have sealed the deal is a “really huge book” Mora showed him, in which the 60-year-old had chronicled every mistake he believes he's made on the sideline and wrote down what he should have done instead.
“I was worried it was going to take us a couple of days just to get through 'em," Benedict joked. “To me that says a lot about a person that they are willing to learn from those mistakes, they are willing to own those mistakes.”
Mora insists the book isn't that big, and he notes he also journals about successes and good ideas. He said the UConn job, which he officially started on Sunday, will give him the ability to put everything he's learned into one more football challenge.
He also revealed that he reached out to UConn, not the other way around, after the school parted ways with Randy Edsall early in the season.
“This was the job I wanted,” he said.
UConn certainly presents a challenge. The Huskies reached the Fiesta Bowl after the 2010 season but have gone 31-90 since. They have failed to post a single winning season and have lost 36 of their last 37 (including 14 straight) games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, while moving from the American Athletic Conference to independent status.
Mora compared his new job to his favorite hobbies, which include hiking or bicycling up mountains and “skinning" — wrapping skis in an animal skin, then walking up a slope and skiing back down in the dark, with just a headlamp to light the way.
“I like to go uphill,” Mora said. “I like things that are hard. Hard things motivate me. So, this is just another chance to walk up a hill.”
Mora already has held a team meeting and announced several coaching hires and his decision not to retain anyone from Edsall's staff.
He has been recruiting and reaching out to Connecticut high school coaches, insisting that keeping top prospects in state will be a priority.
He's also spent the last few weeks assessing the talent on the current roster. He said he'll be giving each player an honest — sometimes brutally honest — indication of the role he sees for them going forward.
He said he will use the transfer portal to help build next year's team, but he wants to create a foundation for the future through the recruiting process.
Mora has had success turning around programs. He took the Atlanta Falcons from 5-11 in 2003 to 11-5 and the NFC Championship game in his first season. UCLA was 6-7 in 2011 and went 9-5 his first season there.
He's not setting a timeline for succeeding at UConn.
“I’ll just say every single day we’re going to take another step toward being better," he said.
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