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University of Southern California (USC) sports news from the Los Angeles Daily News. The Daily News is Los Angeles County's largest regional newspaper. The Daily News is the flagship of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. Started in Van Nuys, the Daily News has been telling the story of L.A. for 90 years.Read more »
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SCOTT WOLF on USC: Kiffin still has room to grow
Nov 17, 2011
When former USC coach Pete Carroll was 41, he famously flashed a choke sign in an NFL game after an opposing kicker missed an extra point. That gives USC coach Lane Kiffin another five years to act like a jerk.
That might sound like a harsh analogy but the pair is constantly compared, so Kiffin knows Carroll will always be the gold standard around Heritage Hall. But if Kiffin is expected to win like Carroll, maybe everyone should remember Carroll's petulant side before he became a demi-god.
"Any time you take this job and follow (Carroll), there is pressure on you," Kiffin said. "We could be 40-point underdogs and people expect you to win here."
Whatever one thinks of Kiffin, he is 8-2 with a team ranked in the Top 25 as the Trojans prepare to play No. 4 Oregon on Saturday. What will sound strange to those who only view Kiffin from TV interviews or sideline shots is the humility that accompanies his coaching.
Kiffin rarely makes anything about himself and prefers to credit USC for successes. After USC routed Washington last week, Kiffin said only the Trojan program could weather probation and it had nothing to do with him.
Maybe it is a sign of personal growth in Year 2 at USC but those close to him saw it before he took the job.
"Every year you change whether people realize it or not," Kiffin said. "I do. People say a quarterback improves with experience. So does a coach. To me, you have to learn from your mistakes. I've made plenty of them."
The fans only see a young coach with his head buried in a play chart during games. Kiffin sees 200 plays that he's trying to constantly reshuffle to keep opposing defenses off-balance. His coaches see someone they respect.
"He is a great game-day guy," Trojans special-teams coach John Baxter said. "He sees things in slow motion."
That's the type of comment usually reserved for athletic geniuses. But Kiffin said he has heard it before. And he doesn't sound cocky saying it.
"I've had people say that over the years," Kiffin said. "Even though I'm not that old I've been in football forever."
Everything about a football game is business to Kiffin, so he found it strange early in the season when ESPN wanted to know why he never smiles. Carroll celebrated every play USC made so everyone is accustomed to a charismatic figure on the sideline.
"He won, so they like it," Kiffin said. "Go back to before he was winning and what they said."
If Kiffin loses, he looks like the guy who brightens a room by leRead more »
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