It’s not often that you see a head coach fired five games into a season, but USC pulled the plug on Lane Kiffin hours after its 62-41 loss to Arizona State, which meant the Trojans were in need of someone to take over coaching duties the rest of the way.
Enter Ed Orgeron.
USC’s current defensive line coach was handed the reins of the football program on Sunday by the school’s athletic director, Pat Haden, and tasked with ‘bringing joy and fun’ back to the team for its final eight games of the 2013 season.
He’s the first interim head coach in the history of USC football.
“I want to thank Pat Haden for trusting me to be the interim head coach at USC,” said Orgeron. “We had a very positive staff meeting this morning and then we met with the team and came out with a positive vibe. We made a commitment to give all we have for the Trojan family. I’m excited to be this team’s coach for next eight games and see where it takes us.”
Orgeron’s passion and enthusiasm contrasts sharply with Kiffin’s introverted, almost sullen personality, and was cited by Haden as a prime reason for his selection.
“This game is supposed to be fun,” Haden said. “Ed’s love for the game and passion for the game means a lot to us. There is a lot to be played for still this year.”
The 52-year-old Louisiana native has previous head coaching experience, a forgettable three-year stint at Ole Miss from 2005-2007. The Rebels went 10-25 during that time and Orgeron was fired after going 0-8 in SEC play. But Orgeron credited his time in Oxford as a learning experience that will help him with his current undertaking.
“Coaching there helped me learn how to handle days like today,” he said. “I learned how to handle a full team and not just a defensive line. I learned how to handle adverse situations, how to play LSU and Alabama in a hostile environment, how to react and interact with the players and how to organize recruiting.”
Orgeron said offensive coordinator Clay Helton would call plays, but that the offense probably wouldn’t change that much schematically.
“We’re going to have some lengthy discussions about it this week and I totally trust we’ll put a great product on the field,” he said.
Whatever the case, the tone and feel of this team will be much different with Orgeron at the helm.
“I want to play with energy,” said Orgeron. “I want our guys to believe and have a little fun. We need to circle the wagons a bit, have some fun and let the chips fall where they may.”
Unless a miracle happens, don’t look for Orgeron to end up as USC’s permanent head coach. Haden made it clear that the search would soon begin, but that it wasn’t time to talk about any possible hires just yet.
“We’re going to try to find the best coach we can possibly find,” said Haden. “But it’s not fair to our team to talk about that right now. Let’s worry about that search in our future.”
USC has a couple months to get that coaching search right. Until then, the high-energy Orgeron is its man.