The moniker says it all. Pete Carroll is a big-time gambler, a player; and we have been loving it all these years. The bravado and success have made him an American icon. Pete Carroll has set the bar at new heights with a run that is the envy virtually every other college football coach. However, gamblers don't "win forever," and this season PC and the USC Trojans lost, big time.
Paragon, DC Trojan and most commentators on the Conquest Chronicles have noted that we were expecting some losses in this rebuilding season. What no one expected was an absolute collapse in the two biggest games of the season and in one fairly easy one. These losses were extraordinary in that they succeeded in making Pete Carroll look foolish. Against Washington our ex-assistants took a bunch of scrubs, coached them up and schemed out a win against a team that looked dazed and confused. But, when it came to Oregon and Stanford the message was loud and clear; they are better than USC now and each coach sent his own particular message. Chip Kelly showed "mercy" by shutting down his offense in the 4th quarter, and embarrassment no doubt; but that wouldn't do for the loony Jimbo Harbaugh who decided to put himself in the record books. Revenge is a dish that is served cold, and when Jimbo got his chance he planted a cleat on those big balls and stomped as hard as he could. "What's your deal?" A scream heard around the entire country.
Llast Saturday Pete Carroll had a date with destiny. Looking at the wreckage can anyone of us say we're surprised? On September 11, 2009, Esquire Magazine published an article by Mike Sager in which he related his experiences with Big Balls Pete over a five-month period before the 2009 season. The article is edgy and now wholly complimentary, definitely a good read, and it made me wonder what the hell was going on down at Heritage Hall. Re-reading it this week sent a few small chills down my spine, because through the words of an impartial observer we could see this train was rolling towards the station. My Dad once said these words to me "son, you will fail if someday you start believing your own bullshit." Sager gives us a glimpse:
In the process of honing his craft and his philosophy, Carroll had begun to emerge as a regional pied piper, a man who, in his own words, has the "ability to convene people" in one of the world's most powerful cities. His Facebook page has maxed out his allotment of friends. Nearly fifty thousand souls follow his blog and his tweets on Twitter, which include inspirational messages ("Been thinking all morning about how you only got one life to live... so you better live it or it'll live you"), notes from the Lakers' victory party ("Watching Kobe and the mayor rock out to Lil Wayne - so insane!"), and songs of the day (everything from "Live Your Life," by T. I. and Rihanna, to "Add It Up," by the Violent Femmes).
A "regional pied piper" "honing his craft and his philosophy." Has Pete Carroll transcended football? His public persona would win him the Governorship of California if he wanted it, or he could be a best-selling author self-help books, or an inspirational leader of America's disenfranchised youth. These would certainly be laudable endeavors, but in reality a man can inhabit only one world at a time, and for now Pete Carroll seems to be levitating above the little world of college ball. Sager:
Imagine the historic Los Angeles Coliseum, filled to capacity with a USC football crowd of more than ninety-three thousand , a good many of them doing the cupped-hand thing, a celebration of Carroll's confident tenacity, his tendency to go for it... on fourth down, in noontime pickup basketball games, at a fantasy-football camp for grown men, in every single endeavor he undertakes, from his efforts with ghetto youth (A Better LA) to his partnership with the new owners of the L. A. Marathon to his recent enlistment, by the U. S. government, to help focus the training of small-group military units to the little competitions he is constantly playing against himself
During interviews this week, PC put on a good face saying the team was doing fine and that he didn't take Harbaugh's actions seriously. If he sincerely feels this way it would indicate that "win forever" was a metaphor that simple-minded fans thought would apply to actually winning football games. Perhaps winning forever is a state of mind in which you feel like a winner no matter what happens, as long as you're having as much firkin' fun as possible.
In some of his philosophical writings, which he shared with the understanding they would remain off the record, he mentions a wide range of influences, including psychologist Abraham Maslow (self-actualization), author Tim Gallwey (Inner Tennis), countercultural Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, Tibetan Buddhist monk and meditation master Chogyam Trungpa, and Zen master D. T. Suzuki.
Winning requires an organization, hard work, willingness learn new things and the ability to take accept advice and criticism. Your coworkers should always be your toughest critics. Have fun with your work and invite others to join in, but when fun and games come first you pay a price. Here's Sager describing what goes on in meetings.
His eldest, Brennan, thirty, is known as BC. He played tight end for Pitt. Now he's the tight-end coach and chief recruiter for the Trojans. At the conference table, BC is always the loudest and most boisterous. Because the Pittsburgh Penguins had just won the Stanley Cup, he had lately been shouting out "Pens!" at random moments, bringing to mind a Tourette's sufferer. He always sits to Carroll's immediate right; he stopped calling him Dad some years ago. They have the same blazing blue eyes and granite jaw; they speak to each other like two parts of the same brain.
"We both have ADD," Brennan says. "We're weird. It probably helps more than it hurts, being a little off the wall. In this profession there probably aren't a whole lot of people who would pattern their styles after the way he is, and now I'm the junior version of that."
Sorry Brennan, but being "off the wall" definitely hurts. BC is big and loud and sitting at the right hand of his Dad. Who will utter a discouraging word? The line is as clear as a yellow first down marker, who's going to cross it? That would be nobody.
Carroll entered from his office across the hall, McMuffin in hand. His mouth was full, he was chewing, he was wearing the silly/happy expression of a guy who's just come to work after his morning surf. "What's happenin' boys?"
"A little camp today!" hollered the defensive coordinator, Haruki Rocky Seto, "Rock" to his friends, a second-generation Japanese American named for the boxer Marciano. (His brothers are named after Sonny Jurgensen and Johnny Bench.) An undersized junior-college fullback who made the Trojans as a walk-on, Seto entered the coaching ranks as a video assistant, filming practices. When Carroll came to town for his first USC press conference nine years ago, Rocky was the kid who picked him up at the airport. Now he's in charge of Carroll's first love: defense.
They're a tight knit family and Pete is more than just a patriarch, he is their lord and master. This is PC's perfect staff, they owe him everything and they're loyal to the end. There is no dissention.
Carroll talks a lot about his coaches "growing up in the program." He likes grooming his own people instead of bringing in established stars. He is proud of the fact that former assistant coaches, like Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, who recently departed for Pac-10 rival Washington, have gone on to head-coaching jobs themselves. "I want guys to come to the program knowing that I'll do everything in my power to get them the job of their dreams at some other place," he says.
Play your cards right and you too can move up. Do you wonder why Nick Holt would take the crappy job of running the UW defense? Or why every other standout coach has left? Pete's words:
"When I went to junior college, it started happening for me. And when I finally got to Pacific, my first year I made the all-conference team, I was captain, all that shit. It was like I had a chip on my shoulder. I had something to prove; I was gonna prove it to everybody. I've lived that way ever since."
After Pete's humbling experiences with the Patriots and Jets he came to USC and installed a dream team staff of coaches, with Norm Chow as first among equals running the offense and Ed Orgeron enforcing discipline on the defense and bringing in every recruit they wanted. But success came so quickly and easily that the light that suddenly shone so bright blinded Pete completely. "I had something to prove; I was gonna prove it to everybody." Apparently, Norm Chow, Ed Orgeron, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Nick Holt, Mack Brown, Karl Dorrell, Mike Riley, Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh also had something to prove. Slick Rick and Mike Stoops are looking forward to their chance to do the same.