By Julie Buehler
Ever had a really bad travel experience? The kind that makes your brain bleed and your eyes sting? When the best part is landing in your hometown and feeling the sweeping relief of familiarity? Now imagine a wrecking ball through your face as soon as your feet hit that familiar concrete… THAT was late Saturday night for former USC head coach Lane Kiffin. And for what it’s worth: couldn’t have happened to a better guy.
I’ve been calling for the replacement of Lane Kiffin since he was hired by Mike Garrett in the wake of Pete Carroll jetting (read: escaping) for the Seattle Seahawks.
See, Garrett knew few quality head coaches would be willing to wade through the NCAA sanctions the Carroll/Garrett era dumped the proud university into. So he hired a man who wouldn’t question his authority or that of the departed Carroll, and simply accept the hand he was dealt. He hired a man who couldn’t question the previous regime’s transgressions because he was part-and-parcel of the coaching staff and therefore as culpable in the “lack of institutional control.”
So, sure, Lane Kiffin had a tough road in front of him, but he had plenty of elite talent to help him pave that road.
Problem is: he’s a lousy head coach. Lousy. I don’t dislike Kiffin. I’ve interviewed him many times and found him to be a genuinely likeable guy.
But he’s just not good at being a head coach. He was terrible as the Raiders’ head coach. Awful at Tennessee. And face planted at USC.
It’s like the hamburgers at AM/PM… If painfully desperate, they could be considered a serviceable solution to hunger, but you should NEVER get that desperate. Problem was, USC did and the nation had to stomach a bad decision at a top institution.
And while Kiffin toiled with some of the nation’s top talent last year and the losses piled up and the recruits dumped USC like an overweight model, the biggest shock came this summer when USC athletic director, Pat Haden, gave a “State of Troy” address and publicly endorsed Kiffin. Up to that point, I respected Pat Haden. But when he voluntarily approved of Kiffin and even said Kiffin’s job was NOT in jeopardy, I concluded Haden was either lying or sticking his head in the sand. Either way, not good leadership.
After a 62-41 loss to ASU in Tempe, the Kiffin got off the team bus, summoned to a small side room at LAX and Haden launched the haymaker, firing Kiffin at the airport.
Troy rejoiced and those who have been calling for Lane’s firing are now wondering who the replacement will be. Former Ole’ Miss head coach, SC defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron will serve as interim.
Rumors abound about who’s next in line and names like Jack Del Rio, Jeff Fisher, Chris Pederson and others are the ones at the top of the list. I hope Haden has learned from this experience as well, how to communicate appropriate expectations and choose a new head coach that can be held accountable and help rebuild the program.
The good news is, after a bad taste in the mouths of Trojan fans, almost any one will be a better option than Kiffin.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 3-6 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 3-6 pst at www.team1010.com or watch the show on Ustream.