Kiffin Has Proved Himself Worthy
Lane Kiffin (Photo by Kevin Carden)
Lane Kiffin (Photo by Kevin Carden)
Beat Writer, SC Playbook
Posted Nov 20, 2011


The Trojans' head coach has proved himself worthy of being mentioned in the Coach of the Year conversation.

EUGENE, Ore.--Lane Kiffin helped mute the House of Loud Saturday night.

Sure his offensive personnel, like Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Matt Barkley, Biletnikoff Award candidate Robert Woods and one of the nation's best freshmen in receiver Marqise Lee, were key in silencing the notoriously raucous Autzen Stadium.

And, of course, the USC head coach had an underrated but inspired defense that, for three quarters of Saturday night, hushed Oregon's dangerous blur offense.

And, indeed, he had an experienced coaching staff, one that has preached a collective mentality and extricated individuals, to support him in the endeavor.

Let's not forget Kiffin had the experience to boost him Saturday night, too: After undergoing a tumultuous 2010 season full of jarringly-close losses, he wouldn't let another close one slip away.

But he also had the confidence, in himself and in his team, to go into the loudest venue on the West Coast and surprise the nation against its fourth-ranked team. 

Minutes before the big game Kiffin told his players: "We're going to shock the world. But were not shocking anyone in our own room."

Whether or not everyone else believed, Kiffin did. 

A lot works in your favor when your players buy into the system, work hard every day and have an abundance of natural talent. But such qualities summarize a lot of Division-I football programs.

When you add in USC's postseason ban and the long list of impact underclassmen, a potential 10-2 season should undoubtedly escalate Kiffin into the Coach of the Year discussion.

USC Athletics Director Pat Haden echoed the sentiment after the Trojans' emotional 38-35 win over the Ducks.

"Lane Kiffin should be Coach of the Year," he told reporters.

But what, aside from winning, has this 36-year old done to be worthy of such an accolade in his second year at the helm for Southern California?

First, the way he has handled the wins. In nine conquests this season, there has never been a drop of gloating or a dismissal of the other team. 

The way he moves his team on from the losses is also noble. After the Trojans' first road trip of the season resulted in ASU's favor, Kiffin didn't sing his usual downtrodden song where he challenges players to be better. Instead, he focused solely on the good. That positive spin resonated with many players, who bounced back to beat Arizona at home the following week.

Another reason is because he--and his dad Monte, Sammy Knight, Joe Barry, Ed Orgeron, James Cregg, Ted Gilmore, Kennedy Polamalu and John Baxter-- allow players to see their athletic potential. His ability to put the best pieces together in this fragmented puzzle is why nearly every Trojan position has some amount of competition. It's why why he's been so successful in recruiting despite burdensome scholarship limitations.

Kiffin deserves mention for the award because he doesn't mention that he's done all these things. When asked how he has turned this program around and given so many players the confidence to succeed, the playcaller always turns it back onto the playmakers.

"It would be a huge mistake," he shouted in the locker room after the Trojans' big win.

"A huge mistake," he repeated.

"For us to single out any people in this room.

"A gigantic mistake.

"We ain't singling out anybody. Because we talked about [how] it would take everybody," he continued.

"Whether you're a true freshman or a fifth-year senior, it was going to take every single person in this locker room."

The entire team erupted.

He may not go down as the ultimate player's coach like his predecessor, but this man is a great coach that has squeezed out the best from his underdogs this season.

"They're very young kids that, for whatever reason, act very professional," Kiffin said Sunday.

That reason is Kiffin. While the former Trojans' assistant coach is notorious for being cryptic and throwing smokescreens more often than a Trojan fan throws up two fingers, the coach answers nearly all media requests and seems genuinely interested in the fans.

Early last week a longtime Trojan fan handed Kiffin a Nike football in passing and asked the coach for his autograph. Kiffin obliged and remained silent while listening to the fan's soliloquy about the theOregon matchup.

For those two minutes, that fan had the coach's eyes and ears. 

'No distractions.'

The teacher practices what he has begged out of his students since August: focus.

Turning away from the fan and walking back toward Heritage Hall, Kiffin took a deep breath and muttered to the media watching: "no pressure, right?"

But the truth is Kiffin loves this job and the mounting pressure. He loves the national attention and he loves clearing his controversial name with each passing week.

Above all else, though, this young coach has an indisputable passion for winning.

And he should be recognized for the obstacles his team has climbed to do that, nine times over.



Related Stories
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 -by SCPlaybook.com  Nov 21, 2011

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