By Chris Umpierre

Daily Bruin Staff

It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, but the embattled
Steve Lavin will gladly take it.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his Jan. 9 comments
regarding Rick Pitino, UCLA Athletic Director Pete Dalis said
Tuesday, “Steve (Lavin) is going to be the coach next
year.”

However, Dalis would not guarantee that the fifth-year head
coach ““ who can be bought out after this season for $765,000
““ will return next year.

“You want a guarantee? I don’t have any
guarantees,” Dalis said. “I mean Steve’s going to
be the coach next year. How do you want it done? How would you
prefer I state it?”

Dalis also said he didn’t regret the entire Pitino
situation. He started the debacle when he stated that he had two
conversations with Pitino, who recently resigned from the Boston
Celtics.

The questions that then followed about Lavin’s job
security led him to say that “the last three weeks since the
Pitino episode have been very challenging and difficult.”

Dalis maintains he did no harm to Lavin. “I talk to
coaches all the time. If I don’t talk to coaches then
I’m not doing my job as a Division I-A Athletic
Director,” he said. “I was just honest this time and
that will never happen again.”

After Lavin’s team responded to the speculation by winning
three of their next four games, critics argued the administration
should officially state Lavin is not in the hot seat.

ESPN analyst Dick Vitale was one of the loudest critics who felt
a vote of confidence for Lavin was in order.

“Dick Vitale is a bootlicker and you can put that in the
paper,” Dalis said. “Dick Vitale doesn’t
construct the environment I live in nor the culture.”

Lavin was pleased by Dalis’ words of encouragement.

“I think the good news is it puts the Pitino news behind
us and we can stabilize a great program,” he said. “At
the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.

“The biggest thing is wins,” Lavin added. “If
you win games, it cures all ills. If there’s the perception
that there’s no internal support from the administration,
that can create the impression of instability.”

While refusing to critique Lavin because he didn’t want to
create what he termed “a weekly soap opera,” Dalis
hinted that he wasn’t happy with the head coach’s
demeanor on the sidelines.

“He seems more animated this year than I’ve ever
seen him,” he said. “I’ve seen him probably more
angry than ever. He’s starting to fall into being one of
those old-time coaches that some of the ADs complain about.

“Guys that go nuts on the sidelines, athletic directors
typically don’t like that,” he added.

Nevertheless, Dalis has been pleased with the recent play of the
team ““ UCLA has won 13 of its last 15 games, beating teams
such as USC, Stanford, and Arizona ““ as well as the growth of
the team’s head coach.

“We did take a risk on Steve,” said Dalis, who hired
Lavin with no head coaching experience in 1997. “I think
he’s been disadvantaged vis-a-vis John Wooden in the sense
that if you take a look at the players that could have been on this
year’s team.”

“If you take (Jerome) Moiso, (JaRon) Rush and Baron Davis,
this would have been a very effective team. Not that we
aren’t now but that dimension (would’ve added) even
more (talent).”