A couple of days ago I put up a story discussing the Oregon win and how I thought it was a confidence builder. In that post I also discussed my thoughts on UCLA in which there was a thoughtful comment from a Bruin fan respectfully disagreeing with some of my points in the post. That's fine, I thought he made some good points in a rational manner and I responded in kind. One of the points I made was on the issue of respect and I made an ambiguous statement that I thought UCLA didn't respect us; the commenter took exception, respectfully, and disagreed. The comment was ambiguous on purpose as to not fan any flames that could start a range war but obviously I had to explain myself in my response.
So why is this relevant? Well in this post on Kredell's blog in the Daily News the accusation was made that UCLA's players don't respect us, the opposite of what I said in my post. Respect is one of those words that have a million different meanings but at its foundation it usually means that one opponent looks upon the other with disdain. The USC-UCLA has been described may ways, too many to get into here. But the players usually have a sense of respect as they have known each other from high school or traveling teams as was discussed here in this story in the LAT.
Then again, gracious gestures are nothing new when it comes to Trojans and Bruins who have been close for years.
Former UCLA standout Jordan Farmar once gave USC swingman Nick Young a set of SAT study guides and brought him to Westwood to shoot baskets on a recruiting visit.
But there is nothing friendly about the cross-town rivalry that will resume Wednesday when No. 2 UCLA plays host to No. 19 USC at Pauley Pavilion, where the Bruins have romped to consecutive 21-point victories over the Trojans.
"It is serious when we're on the court," Afflalo said of his camaraderie with Pruitt. "He wants to beat us and I want to beat them."
Of course there is some competitive spirit but in the end these guys for the most part understand that there is a bigger prize at the end of the day. The nuttiness and nastiness usually comes from the fan base not the players and it gets to insane levels, I have my own opinions but that is for another time. That's why I was a little surprised to see Nick Young's comments that he thought the UCLA program was "cocky". That's not the coach Howland I know.
Let me explain.
I can't remember if it was the year before Howland took the job at UCLA or the year before that but I was at Newark-Liberty airport traveling on business with a group of people that worked with, including my wife, when she still worked, and we were sitting in the bar waiting for our flight and I saw all these big kids in Pittsburgh garb when I remembered that they were in town to play, I think, St. John's at MSG so I go up to coach Howland and ask him how he thought his team would do in the tournament and calmly told me that they would win. Not cocky, not arrogant but more matter of fact. Now as you all know basketball is not my favorite sport and I had no idea who this guy was but he was gracious with is time I wished him luck and went about my business with my group. It wasn't until after he went to UCLA that recognized who he was.
My point is that Coach Howland is not a cocky guy and I would guess that he wouldn't let his players get cocky. Yeah, there will be some trash talk but I mean its sports come on. Remember when I said a couple of weeks ago Let's not get carried away? Part of being a winner is acting like a winner. Act like you have been there before and worry about your game not the other guys. That's where our guys need to mature. Even if you feel that way keep it under wraps and don't make it public. UCLA has earned the right to strut it's stuff a little bit as they are THE team in the Pac 10 right now. SC is having some great success and making a fine showing but one season does not a dynasty make.
So lets worry about us and not worry about whether or not the other guys are cocky. I'm a big believer in karma and if the other guys want to temp the karma gods then let them do it, it usually it gets paid back to them in spades, or as I once heard, if your opponent is digging himself into a hole stay away form the edge.
Food for thought, don't you think?