Lane Kiffin sat down for a three-part interview with Michael Lev of the Orange County Register.
Kiffin offers up some interesting thoughts on a number of subjects.
Kiffin comes across as measured, yet honest to me. I didn't expect him to get into too much detail and because he has been burned in the past by the press I could see where he would deflect some questions but for the most part he answered them with candor.
Kiffin is smarter than many people give him credit for. He is pretty savvy. You can tell by this interview that he views this opportunity at USC differently than he did at Tennessee. He appears very focused...I don't see him being distracted from the task at hand.
Kiffin has never come off as being easily rattled. This interview confirms that to me. He has been in high pressure situations before and he has worked through it then, so I see no reason why he won't do the same here.
Lev asks the questions that many of us want to hear and Kiffin provides some honest answers...
Part 1 of the interview to me was unremarkable...but that was to be expected just some general info on his coaching experience and the direction he plans to take with the staff etc. Understandable, you want to save the best for later on...
Part 2 was where we got a little more insight.
Question: One of the first things you told the team was that there was no depth chart and everyone’s starting with a fresh slate. Did you mean that literally?
Kiffin: Yes. I think it’s very critical for your team to know that. It’s one of the good things about a coaching turnover. There’s no preconceived thoughts about the players. It’s hard to really make things open when you’ve already had guys for a couple of years, because you know how they are; they’ve shown you the good and bad. All the guys get a fresh opportunity.
This where Kiffin needs to set the tone early. It is tough for any coach not to come into this sort of situation without some preconceived notion of personal, he isn't blind and in his month here I am sure he has already looked at film to get an idea as to what he has in the cupboard. But if he expects to win this teams hearts and minds he MUST have open competition at all spots including QB. Now, I am not saying that Matt Barkley won't ultimately win the starting job but Kiffin has to take a serious look at Mustain. Kiffin actually rewarding guys with starting jobs because they earned it goes a long way with establishing his credibility.
As much as we all loved Pete Carroll, it became pretty obvious during the last two seasons Carroll did not necessarily follow his mantra that every player competes for a starting job. Carroll did play some favorites, we all saw it. Kiffin has a chance to set his own level of credibility with this team...
Q: Speaking of which, the USC-UCLA rivalry is obviously a big deal. When the coaching change happened, Rick Neuheisel said the landscape had shifted, intimating the Bruins had an opening. Do you see it the same way?
Kiffin: I don’t know how he really sees it, and I really don’t worry about it. If I could paint a picture of an 18-hour day here, (you’d see) how little we ever talk about Rick Neuheisel or UCLA. We don’t consume ourselves with that. We’re worried about ourselves. We’re worried about getting our own players better. We’re worried about next year, about how can we sign a No. 1 recruiting class again. He’s done great things over there. We’re just focused on ourselves.
Home Run answer here...
Pete didn't give a rats ass about Slick Rick or ucla and Lane Kiffin is taking the same approach.
I can see why Slick Rick is the way he is...it is tough being the also ran. Rick may think he has closed the gap because he has recruited well, but his teams traditionally play soft, he still has a patchwork O line and he and Norm Chow still can't agree on who should be QB. Sure, the fans care...we have our fair share of jabs at ucla here on CC but if take a look across town they live in their own little world of Trojan/Kiffin derangement syndrome. Some even take it to the level of using the Saul Alinski playbook to go after USC. That isn't how we do it and neither does Lane Kiffin...it is clear he could care less. He wants to focus on USC, he wants to build his own legacy and you don't do that worrying about the other guy.
In Part 3, we see an interesting view into Lane Kiffin the person...
Q: If you could go back in time, would you have handled your exit from Tennessee any differently?
Kiffin: I would. I thought I was handling it above what a normal coach does. … I would have actually done less. I wouldn’t have spoken to the media. Usually, when people leave, they don’t. That was the advice I had been given: Don’t speak to the media there, have your team meeting, get on a plane, get to your new job and speak when you get there. That’s what most coaches do. I felt that the media had been so good to us in the time we were there … that I wanted to have a sitdown meeting with them, I wanted to explain my reasons for leaving, kind of say goodbye and thank you to them. And that just kind of backfired on me.
Q: It probably would have helped to have been through something like that before.
Kiffin: There were some hard circumstances. As it was happening, I was out of state at the SEC coaches meetings. Usually you’re right there to have your team meeting. In that flight time back it gets out and the players are upset, because they feel like they weren’t the first ones to be told of it. I tried to handle it the best that I could.
There is no easy or good way to split up from who you are currently with...someone is always going to have their feelings hurt. Kiffin tried to to be the bigger person about it. He thought he owed some in the press an honest answer. Instead, as we saw, the press became petulant and attacked Kiffin. They suddenly wanted to dig up alleged dirty details on his private life. All that did was stoke the flames with the fans and it escalated from there.
It got so bad, that in their quest to nail Kiffin they actually showed their own alleged level of corruption when trying to describe Kiffin's car accident was something more than it really was.
Q: We’re six weeks or so from spring football. Are you incredibly eager for that first spring practice to arrive?
Kiffin: No. We have so much to do between now and then. The more time, the better. We want to be extremely prepared.
Q: What’s on the agenda?
Kiffin: We first have to finish putting our staff together. We’re going to have new coaches that we’re going to have to teach our systems to. We’re going to need to learn our players from watching last year’s film to develop an idea of what was going on here. There’s a ton of work to be done.
I think he is taking the right approach. There is no need to rush it...of course he can't take his time either.
He needs to find the right mix.
With a stint in the NFL and a stint in the SEC Kiffin has a feel of how he wants to build his program. I think he will be fine.
Overall, I think Lev offered up a nice balance of questions and Kiffin's answers were sincere. Kiffin knows he doesn't have to pull the same stunts at USC like he did at Tennessee to get some buzz going...