Pete Carroll’s out and Lane Kiffin is in. Just like that, mentee turned trainwrecked Raiders coach turned shadowy, feuding Tennessee coach has turned into his mentor’s replacement.
First of all, I’d like to give a special thanks to ESPN’s Joe Schad for ruining my “who will be USC’s next head coach” story I was halfway through. Jerk.
But that’s enough bitterness for now.
USC needed to a make a move quickly, and they did so. But was it the right move?
Carroll took over a Trojans team in 2001 that was on the verge of falling from national relevance, after suffering 13 and eight game winless streaks to Notre Dame and UCLA, respectively, something not acceptable for a program with such a prestigious (sans O.J.) history.
After a mediocre 6-6 first year, Carroll rebounded with a huge second season, finishing 11-2, including a 38-17 win over Iowa in the Orange Bowl. Thus, reviving USC football in the NFL-less Los Angeles area.
With Southern California sports fans dying to jump onto the bandwagon of a winning team, USC football become as popular in Los Angeles as the beach, shopping and saying “bro.”
As well as winning, Pete Carroll had the perfect personality to mesh football with Hollywood. Not every team in the country can get Snoop Dogg, Denzel, and the Governator on their sideline all at once.
He was the reason Los Angeles isn’t clamoring for an NFL team. (Let’s see what happens after another 8-4 season and Emerald Bowl appearance.)
I thought the Trojans should have found a coach with a personality big enough to push the sanctions given by the NCAA to the backburner, someone who could grab the attention of a room and make them forget why they were there in the first place.
Is Lane Kiffin that guy? I don’t think so.
When I heard that former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci was on campus yesterday, I thought it was a perfect fit.
Pro style offense? Check. Very well spoken? Check. Ties to USC? Check (he was an assistant in 1986). Great hair? Check. It’s a match made in heaven.
But obviously Mike Garrett doesn’t appreciate great hair as much as I do.
However, there are positives in the Kiffin hiring.
First of all, they needed to find a new coach before their 14 commitments all transferred to Florida.
Secondly, Kiffin is a great (read: shady) recruiter, who brings along Ed Orgeron, another fantastic former USC recruiting guru, and father, Monte Kiffin, who made the cover two defense famous, to be his assistants.
Although some players will bail this year, the trio will still be able to pull in top talent in the future, as long as they win.
Having coached for five years under Carroll, Kiffin is familiar enough with USC that there won’t be a big shake-up in the team’s philosophy.
But as important as recruiting and comfort are, those qualities don’t win games. Just ask Charlie Weis.
More importantly, will he be able to keep his players loose and relaxed enough to handle USC’s massive expectations? Can he make the media giggle like a computer geek talking to a super model on the Monday after a loss? Can you picture him talking to Snoop Dogg on the practice field?
I can’t. He’s just not that charismatic.
Overall, I think it could turn out to be an O.K. hiring, but I think they should have found an NFL coach with a big enough personality to make the media forget about the sanctions that are sure to come.
But even if it turns out well in the long run, both USC and Tennessee will see plenty of turnover in the coming months.
And guess what, my Oregon Ducks play both teams this year. I like our chances.