Pat Haden wasted no time in naming a new head football coach for the USC Trojans. Two things the sporting world knows about Haden are he’s extremely bright (Rhodes Scholars usually tend to be that way) and he understands USC, USC football and the Trojan family. With all that knowledge, did he make the right choice? Ask me in three or four years.
As far as conjecture, one mistake Haden made (which may not have been avoidable) was not convincing Ed Orgeron to take some time before deciding whether to stay as assistant head coach with a quite handsome pay raise. Orgeron is known to be a passionate, highly emotional guy - to say the least. Maybe Haden should have found someone, e.g. his agent (who’s looking for a big payday), a member the Trojan family who had become close to Orgeron, or even, although it would have been a touchy proposition, a couple key players and explained to him/them what his decision was but that he desperately wanted to keep Coach O on the staff to maintain the momentum from this year (minus the UCLA game). Such a scenario, or something in that vein, might have been the only way Orgeron would have remained.
Instead Haden basically said, “It’s not you; it’s Steve Sarkisian (one of Lane Kiffin’s close friends, a group Orgeron probably thought he belonged to), BUT we want you to stay, be is assistant head coach - with a lot more money.” I’m guessing that this is where Coach O’s pride took over; he felt slighted - after all I did, under the conditions that existed, how dare you insult me! Whoever was in Orgeron’s ear should be ashamed because he or she or they couldn’t have understood USC very well.
While it’s true Orgeron was 6-2 taking over after Kiffin was finally exposed as cover boy for the Peter Principle, his two losses were to SC’s biggest rivals - Notre Dame and UCLA. Ed should have known that would haunt him as he lost his job at Ole Miss after his team blew a 14-point lead against Mississippi State. Moral: losing to your rival(s) stings the locals more than all the other games. And USC has two of them.
Still, under the circumstances, what he accomplished was rather remarkable. However, his only other stint as the head man was at Ole Miss where his performance was worse than bad. Seldom beating a team with a winning record; heck, seldom beating anybody. Surely he didn’t believe that Los Angeles is only 2500 miles away from Oxford (not the one Pat Haden knew). The difference between those two programs is measured in light years. Also, according to Wikipedia (if you believe that), Coach O had some issues in his personal life. Some might say, “Who cares?” Once again, Los Angeles is a different place for the head football coach at USC and even a minor stumble makes the LA Times’ front page.
Rumor has it Orgeron, who thinks he should be a head coach and believes he has that ability, has applied for a couple of head coaching jobs. One is Wake Forest, the other Florida Atlantic. For starters, Wake Forest is nothing more than Ole Miss in an ACC disguise. C’mon Ed, been there, done (or didn’t get it done) that. As for Florida Atlantic, doesn’t he think if he had stayed at USC, who ought to win (especially with Coach O as recruiting coordinator, a certainty to lure top prospects), he’d wind up with a better job (no disrespect to the Owls) than FAU, considering the amount of turnover in college football each year? In addition, he’d probably be making more money and have greater security.
Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe he felt duped, that he had accomplished all that Haden told him he needed to do in order to keep the title (although the margin of defeat to UCLA at home would have to have put some apprehension in his mind). Maybe the hiring of Sarkisian made him feel betrayed. Kiffin came out publicly for Orgeron, yet SC wound up hiring one of Lane’s closest friends. Maybe he felt insulted Haden would think what Sark did at Washington exceeded what he achieved at Troy. Maybe he felt there was no way he could work under Sarkisian.
For Ed Orgeron to resign and take off immediately, leaving the kids he claims he loves, turning his back on them in the bowl game they worked, sweated and bled - together - for, when a victory would leave everyone, i.e. players, coaches, fans, boosters, even administration, with fonder memories than his bitter “get the hell outta Dodge” plan. Even if they lost, it would give some sense of closure. Now, he’s gone and there’s a great deal of emotional pain and baggage left behind. He may wish he swallowed some of that Cajun pride and made a more graceful exit. For everyone involved.
As Ralph Stockman wisely stated:
“True humility is intelligent self-respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come, (yet) short of what we can be.”