Will the Pete Carroll coaching tree finally bear fruit for USC?

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo SportsDecember 3, 2013


In an effort to rekindle Pete Carroll's glory days – which has already failed twice – USC has once again returned to that era for a third former assistant.

Southern California has hired Steve Sarkisian, who arrives via the University of Washington, as its new head coach.

He follows Ed Orgeron, who served much of this season as interim coach, and Lane Kiffin, who led the Trojans for three-plus seasons before being canned in late September.

Sarkisian worked alongside both on Carroll's staff when USC was the nation's top program last decade. He and Kiffin were co-offensive coordinators.

Now he has to prove that he's something different, something better, something that will work.

"He knows how to build a program and create a culture that we value," athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement.

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While reaction in some quarters has been tepid, it's wrong to call Sarkisian, 39, a bad hire. He went 34-29 in five seasons at Washington, and he inherited a bottomed-out mess there. This will be the Huskies' fourth straight bowl trip. He seems to be a good coach. Maybe he becomes a great one at SC.

With these things, you can hardly ever truly know what's to come. Carroll was famously the Trojans' fifth choice when he was given the job.

Still, Sark arrives without the flash and excitement that a bigger name would have. This is USC, this is L.A., and with the early season firing of Kiffin, there was plenty of time for speculation to ramp up and expectations for the new coach to fall somewhere in Belichickian range.

In the end though, Kevin Sumlin is still in College Station and Chris Petersen is still in Boise and it's the Torrance native and former BYU QB who got the nod.

"We kept coming back to Sark," Haden said. "… We conducted a very exhaustive and thorough search, pinpointing about 20 candidates and interviewing five of them … He is the only one who was offered the job. I believe in my gut that he is the right coach for USC at this time."

Some of that may be semantics – here's guessing Sumlin or Petersen could've been offered the job had they been willing to come. At this point, it doesn't matter. The old plan is the new plan again.

Expectations will demand an immediate sign of hope and that could be a challenge.

Specifically, the loss of Orgeron, who justifiably resigned immediately after being passed over by someone with only a marginally stronger resume, doesn't help. Coach O was popular among players and fans.

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And USC is still dealing with one more year of significant scholarship reductions from the Reggie Bush NCAA infractions case. Depth issues from the past two smaller classes will linger for seasons to come. Moreover, UCLA is fielding a stronger program now under Jim Mora than it has in decades.

Still, this is USC. The Coliseum. The Heismans. The uniforms. The band. The facilities (better than ever). The weather (same as ever). The local recruits all within driving distance – and a guy in Sarkisian who corralled them even when he was all the way off in Seattle. Expect Quarterback U to return in full glory.

He doesn't have to be a miracle worker to make this happen. USC has all the advantages and now it has a young, aggressive guy with a nice half-decade of head coaching experience eager to cash in on those advantages.

He's got an exuberant personality. He knows exactly about the pressure to win big. It's all part of the reason he left a comfortable and lucrative job to come back and chase national titles. This is exactly what he coveted, exactly the opportunity he worked to attain.

"I can't wait to get started," Sarkisian said.

That sounds good in Troy, where they are all tired of waiting.