Originally Published: Jan 12, 2010 9:48 PM CDT
Should come as no surprise that first-year Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has made headlines again, this time accepting the head coaching job at USC, which became open when Pete Carroll decided to head back to the NFL and become head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
No doubt the guy will win. Impossible no to with two of the all-time great coordinators joining him—his dad Monte becomes his defensive coordinator, and former SC offensive coordinator Norm Chow returns to the same post. Former SC DC and recruiting zealot Ed Orgeron returns as well.
In light of these coaching moves, a quick-witted buddy just called and wanted to know which school would go on NCAA probation first? Pete Carroll’s USC or Lane Kiffin’s Tennessee?
With all that in mind, it’s time to address the Christmas Carroll.
I like and admire Pete Carroll. I’d rank him behind only Nick Saban as the best college football coach of the decade ending in ’09.
But did you see him today at his introductory presser as the new head coach in Seattle? Carroll didn’t come off as the California Cool cat we got used to seeing yuk it up with his USC studs.
Didn’t come off as the consummate pro we’ve seen on ESPN clips where he was front and center with tear-jerking stories like the recent one featuring the cancer-stricken blind boy who lived out his dream of getting to hang with his SC heroes.
How could you not see him do those types of classy things and not think he was a natural--born on second base not needing to slide into third with a standup triple? All smiles and easy-go-lucky interviews after winning big game after big game and championship after championship.
The Pete Carroll I’d known until today was the one who stepped into the ESPN analyst chair for the BCS Champ8iohship game shows and made it look as simple as a bubble screen. Again, a natural.
The glitz of LA, the actors on the sidelines, the pressure-packed execution of his ballclub made him look too good to be true. Bullet proof.
No flinch in that guy. Cool under pressure. The Pete Carroll I saw at SC was the guy who wouldn’t flinch playing Russian roulette with a loaded pistol.
But today?well, today was different. Seattle’s Pete Carroll looked like the guy who’d been Sleepless in Seattle. For a month.
He made me nervous just watching him on live TV. At today’s press conference, Pete Carroll was more uptight than Tony Barone in overtime. If you don’t remember basketball coach Tony Barone, Google it. And trust me, he could get some kind of uptight.
Several friends in coaching and broadcasting have insisted that behind all the flash, there’s more style than substance. I can buy part of it?not all of it, though.
What I do know is that the way conditions surrounding his departure from USC make this California Cool kinda guy come off as looking like Bonnie and Clyde on the run.
Pete Carroll didn’t rob anyone. But he does leave in his wake several conspicuous and prickly matters, including his completely botched handling of the Mark Sanchez to the NFL fiasco.
And his hard-to-explain losses to the Stanford’s of the world against his team so flush with talent that it’d be a three-point favorite against the Chargers. In San Diego.
The quiet but real NCAA issues. Most recently the Joe Pick-any-car-in-the-lot McKnight problem. And of course the old, Reggie Pick-any-house-in-the-neighborhood Bush story.
Trust me. Despite Carroll’s assertion today that his name is nowhere on NCAA documents involving the Bush allegation, the coach knows the severity of what’s coming. He knows his relationship with AD Mike ’65 Heisman Garrett is publically rock solid but privately a hoax.
He knows that despite being at a place that for now has had to turn down four-and-a-half star recruits, turbulent times are a coming’ for USC.
So Carroll says “nice knowing’ ya.” He’s back in the Sunday game where planes, trains and automobiles (and houses for moms and dads) are not forbidden.
Maybe now, California Cool Carroll can take a deep breath and handle the pressure of running his new team better than he handled today’s press conference.