For those looking for Lane Kiffin to lob potshots at USC in general and Pat Haden specifically in his first public comments since his canning two weeks ago, you came away sorely disappointed.
In a one-on-one interview with Chris Fowler on ESPN‘s College GameDay pregame show, Kiffin came off as, well, the anti-Kiffin most people had come to know and loathe: contrite, introspective and damn-near human. Yes, it was the first PR step in the Rehab Kiffin’s Image Tour, but the former Trojans head coach seemed like a man who had been humbled, and one who intimated he may have needed the humbling the messy divorce brought about.
“Different things that I’ve done that I wouldn’t do again have followed me,” Kiffin said when asked about the missteps in his coaching past, from the vitriolic way he was fired by Al Davis in Oakland to the one-and-done at Tennessee to his three-plus years at USC. “I’ve made a bunch of (mistakes). … It fell apart there toward the end and obviously I’m to blame as the head coach,” Kiffin added.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the interview came when Kiffin was asked about watching Thursday night’s USC-Arizona game with Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian.
“It was hard. It was like watching someone else remain your kids,” the 38-year-old Kiffin said.
Of course, there were still some Kiffin-esque moments that slipped through the carefully-crafted PR image. He mentioned the NCAA sanctions that have hamstrung the football program as well as curiously stating that Haden “has a lot of people to answer to,” intimating that the athletic director’s hands were tied and that the final decision came from boosters; that, though — at least the latter part — might actually be the case.
Kiffin also deftly sidestepped questions about the circumstances surrounding the details of his firing, dancing around the speculation that he was pulled off the bus and fired in the parking of a private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
It’s hard to tell what the future holds for Kiffin after voluntarily or involuntarily leaving three high-profile jobs the past five years, leaving each situation worse off than it was when he got there. As Kevin Harvick once said of Jimmie Johnson, though, Kiffin seems to have a lucky horseshoe crammed up his backside and always lands on his feet with a seemingly better job.
This time around feels different, however, and Kiffin’s best course of action might be to take a coordinator job somewhere while he revamps and retools and rebuilds an image that’s been battered and tattered over the past half decade. Or he’ll become the next POTUS. One of the two.