Episode 131 and WB2 The Kevin Prince Interview

The What’s Bruin Show has returned with two great episodes this week. First, the Sports Godfather Jim Bendat returns to the show to talk with the guys about the UCLA Spring Game and other topics. Listen Here:

We also had the priviledge to talk to former UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince. Hear what he to say about UCLA Football past and present, what his favorite moments as a Bruin are and what he is up to now. Listen Here:



One Title in 42 Years

In 1995, I took my 9-year old son Jeremy to the NCAA Final Four in Seattle. He still considers that vacation to be one of his favorite childhood memories.

When the Bruins won the championship that year, it was their first title since John Wooden’s last team, in 1975. As the Bruins and their fans celebrated in Seattle, I said to Jeremy, “Enjoy this. It’s been twenty years. It could be twenty or more years before the Bruins win another one.”

Jeremy, who is now 31, and I were reminiscing about 1995 after UCLA was eliminated by Kentucky last Friday night. He asked me, “Why haven’t the Bruins won more championships?” And, in a more pointed question, he asked, “Who is to blame?”

He wanted an answer, and I gave him one: J.D. Morgan.

Morgan, for whom the campus athletic department’s building is named, attended UCLA and later coached the Bruins to eight NCAA championships in tennis. He also served as the school’s athletic director from 1963 to 1979. During those sixteen years, UCLA won thirty  national titles, including ten in basketball under John Wooden.

When Coach Wooden retired in 1975, it was J.D. Morgan’s task to find a replacement. Most UCLA fans at the time knew who the replacement should be: former Bruins player and chief assistant coach under Wooden, Denny Crum. Crum had left UCLA after the 1971 season, his third straight year of helping the Bruins win a national championship. He was hired by Louisville to become their head coach, and he took the Cardinals to the Final Four in both 1972 and 1975. In both of those years, it was UCLA who defeated Louisville in the national semifinals.

When Wooden retired, Crum was more than ready. He wanted the job. But J.D. Morgan had a blind spot. He didn’t like Denny Crum.

Morgan wanted the new coach to be a guy who wore plain grey suits. The new coach would have to fit a certain conservative image. Crum didn’t always wear grey suits; he even liked to wear turtlenecks. He had a way of speaking his mind – a quality that John Wooden appreciated in an assistant coach. But Morgan wanted someone who would be more docile.

And so, Morgan selected Clean Gene Bartow, the coach of Memphis State. Bartow had led Memphis to the 1973 national title game against UCLA, and Morgan had been impressed with Bartow’s quiet demeanor.

Bartow lasted exactly two seasons at UCLA. It was tough to follow a legend, and Bartow couldn’t handle the pressure. He was followed, in quick succession, by Gary Cunningham, Larry Brown, Larry Farmer and Walt Hazzard. Five coaches in thirteen years, and none of them lasted more than four seasons.

During those same years, Denny Crum went to four more Final Fours at Louisville, winning two national championships, in 1980 (defeating UCLA in the final) and 1986.

In a 2006 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Crum talked about UCLA and what could have been. “I remember when Gene Bartow took the UCLA job out there, he had a really hard time with the media,” Crum said. “I think I could have handled it. And Coach Wooden thinks I could have handled it. And he’s pretty smart. I honestly think I could have won more championships had I gone back to UCLA.”

Because of J.D. Morgan’s stubbornness, we never got to find out if the Bruin dynasty might have continued well past John Wooden’s retirement.

And that’s my answer for Jeremy – and for all Bruin fans.

Jim Bendat is the author of Democracy’s Big Day (available on Amazon) and a frequent guest on the What’s Bruin Show. He is a lifelong sports fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of LA Sports. 

WB2 – The Steve Lavin Interview!

This past week, Jake had the pleasure of interviewing former UCLA Head Coach and current Fox Sports and Pac12 Network Analyst Steve Lavin.

Coach was kind enough to give us a full 30 minutes, and we talked about his opinions on this years UCLA basketball team, Lonzo Ball, the other top contenders in the Pac 12 and the NCAA Tournament, and he also commented on his time at UCLA.

Listen to this great warmup for tournament season here:


Tracy Murray Joins the What’s Bruin Show

In episode 116, UCLA Basketball Analyst Tracy Murray joins the What’s Bruin Show.

Bill, Jake and Mike welcome UCLA Basketball great Tracy Murray to the show for an interview. For the most part, the boys manage to maintain their composure (at least during the interview), but please don’t hold them responsible for the rest of the show.

Murray discussed many things surrounding UCLA, from his time as a Bruin playing under Coach Jim Harrick to his adventures as a sports broadcaster.

The rest of the show rounds out with a quick discussion about the Michigan game and a quick What’s Bruin.

All in all, a great night for What’s Bruin. Listen Here:


Episode 106 – Return of the Godfather! 

This Weeks Episode features the return of the Sports Godfather Jim Bendat. We always enjoy having him on, and the photos below are referenced in the show when he talks about Vin Scully in the LA Sports Express.


Here is a picture of the UCLA defense on Stanford’s TD pass. Jake talks about it during the show. With the two safeties, nickle back and two linebackers all standing inside the hash marks, five of the seven Bruin defenders take themselves out of the play and leave the pair of corner backs in one on one situations. We all know how that turned out.


Listen Here: