This is a quasi self-indulgent post … but also some rambling thoughts about leadership.
Why self indulgent?
Lane Kiffin was “relieved of his duties” as head coach of my undergraduate alma mater … the University of Southern California.
While I tend to believe we fans, sports nuts, whatever you want to call us … are relentlessly brutal and unforgiving with coaches these days … I tend to believe Lane got what he deserved.
For several reasons I believe this and none will have to do with what I personally believed was a semi-‘punk’ like attitude.
Here you go:
- Managing talent.
Wasn’t USC football significantly hampered by scholarship penalties?
Wasn’t Lane managing less talent?
Before anyone gives him any sympathy because USC was on sanctions and had significantly less scholarships to use … let me point out the linked info-graphic which points out that USC is the number one feeder system to the NFL:
Let’s be clear.
Coaches at 99% of football programs would kill to have this kind of talent.
To suggest ‘not having enough’ is an excuse?
Please <said in a sarcastic tone>.
Recruiting classes look great on paper … but what truly matters is what you do with the players you actually have … on the field.
It doesn’t matter whether you are in an office or on an athletic field … if you are a manager … you can be the best frickin’ hirer in the world … but you have to manage anyone … talented, untalented, semi-talented … to their highest level of performance.
That is what leaders do.
Lane didn’t manage the talent he had.
While ranked #1 preseason last year … the team ended up dropping four of their last five games and in only one of those games did the Trojans give up less than 400 yards of total offense. Instead of playing in the national championship game USC ended their season in the Salad Bowl with another loss against Georgia Tech.
As one media source suggested … “a fitting end to a season marred with deflated football controversy, post-game fights, banned beat reporters and more.”
With the kind of talent this college team has there is no way they are getting kicked around as much and as often unless leadership is missing.
That comes from the top.
Being a leader is not easy … particularly if you are trying to herd something like 75 squirrels <teens with egos and talent>.
You have to earn respect.
You have to inspire.
You have to teach.
You have to look <in actions> like you can play the part.
He had the title … but he didn’t have the qualities it takes to be a leader.
I left this one until last.
Mostly because I have a tendency to believe that college sports is more than having a winning record at the end of the year.
While winning is expected at places like USC … inevitably a head coach has to also create ‘winners.’ Create young men with character.
Create and shape young men, most of which will never play on another football field after they are done with college, so they have some semblance of a chance in Life.
Lane had one good winning year <with basically a Pete Carroll team> on the field.
I worried more that the teams didn’t play ‘big’ even in losses.
They seemed to lack character and … well … soul. Heart. Whatever you want to call it.
My point? Sometimes results can be measured by ‘heart’ as much as by wins & losses.
His teams seemed to lack heart … they seemed to have no soul.
I don’t care if you are in athletics or business … an organization with no soul is a reflection of a flawed leader. By the way … that is bad.
What happens next?
This is kind of like an embarrassment of riches.
People will line up for this job.
And here is last next business thought.
Hiring is always difficult when you are seeking someone for the top position.
A boatload of people will be lining up with existing credentials as well as those who have undeniable ‘potential for successful credentials.’
The challenge will be weaving through the pretenders and the real candidates.
The criteria seems pretty straight forward.
- NFL. Either been in NFL or proven to generate NFL talent. Kids go to USC not to get a scholar education but to get an NFL education. Sorry. That is truth. USC doesn’t need to hire ‘up and coming’ or ‘grow on the job’ people … if the candidate doesn’t showcase NFL credentials then … see ya!
- Not camera shy. Geez. This is LA. A USC coach either has to be bigger than life on the sidelines <see John Robinson> or bigger than life off the sidelines <and both is a bonus>. Regardless … someone who embraces the spotlight and cameras … if not … see ya!
- Permit personality in players. It is a fine line but there are successful non-permit personality player coaches <Nick Saban> who build a system and demand players stay out of the spotlight <because it is a system and not one player> … and then there are coaches who embrace the big ego and talent <Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M>. Regardless. Big players that want big stages and big performances and … well … look and be big on ESPN … they want to go to USC. And they need a head coach who embraces that <with some guard rails>. Nick Saban <who I believe is one of five best college coaches of all time> would suck at USC. Be the non-Saban winner or … well … see ya!
Who fits that criteria <just some wishful thinking on my part>?
Let me assume Pete Carroll will not go back to USC <insert a big ‘sigh’ here>.
Jack del Rio: Not only was Del Rio a candidate when Pete Carroll decided to leave for the NFL in 2010, he was reportedly offered the job. At the time, he was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and logistics got in the way. Today he’s the defensive coordinator for the Broncos and the task of hiring him may not be as difficult.
Jeff Fisher: The last time there was an opening for USC’s head coaching position, Fisher was a name that came up as a candidate. The current St. Louis Rams head coach is a So Cal native who attended Taft High School and played for the Trojans under John Robinson. Fisher played in what is possibly the greatest defensive secondary ever in college football – Ronnie Lott <later 49ers>, Dennis Smith <later Broncos>, Dennis Thurman <later Cowboys> and Pat Fisher <Bears>. Plus … if he took the USC job maybe he could convince the Rams to move back to LA and he could coach both teams.
Jon Gruden: These days he’s on everybody’s list to become their next head coach. Gruden has turned down a lot of offers over the past couple of years, content to stay in the Monday Night booth. He is great with young people, he is a good coach, has coached in NFL, he has a super bowl ring … gosh … wouldn’t he like to add “college dynasty” onto his resume?
The only non NFL thought?
Kevin Sumlin: While running the risk of being called shallow or a bigot <in some sense> … having an African American coach at USC would be awesome. That isn’t the only criteria but it sure would be great.
More importantly. He can coach and his style is perfect for SC. Anyone who can coach, defend in media and manage Manziel can manage an LA personality and scene.
He shows a Pete Carroll ability to let players be themselves yet still perform within a system. Does that mean that sometimes they perform on the fringe of what is ‘proper’? You bet.
But they stay within the guardrails <albeit sometimes bouncing off of them> and that is what USC is about.
There is now a used Trojan available if anyone wants it.