Where does USC go from here? Quotes from the press conference
Twelve hours after USC boarded a plane out of Tempe and 10 hours after his decision, USC athletics director Pat Haden held a Sunday afternoon press conference to explain his decision to fire head coach Lane Kiffin and clarify how the Trojans will finish a season that still has at least seven games remaining.
First, Haden clarified the timeline of this morning's events. The Trojans headed back to Los Angeles at 1 a.m., and Haden met with Kiffin for around 45 minutes in a private room at LAX where the Lane Kiffin era of USC football effectively ended. "(Lane's) a great recruiter," Haden said. "He really tried to keep his job and I respect him for that. I would've respected him less if he didn't."
In the end, though, no amount of sales could have saved Kiffin's job. "It's my job to do what's best for USC and this decision I made this morning I think is best for USC," said Haden.
The hammer ultimately fell on Kiffin early, September 28 is very early for a head coaching change, but today's news had actually been formulating over the past five weeks, Haden said. "This has been brewing for a while," said Haden. "I haven't had a good feeling even from the Hawaii game."
So, why did Haden retain Kiffin in the first place, especially when the last half of the 2012 season was so ugly? "The prior year, Lane had won 10 games. We thought last year was an aberration," Haden said. "We thought Lane could make some changes, and he did. He hired an excellent defensive coordinator. At the end of the day it became a gut feeling that we weren't making the progress we should make."
Nearly two months to the day after releasing a video stating he was behind Kiffin "100 percent", Haden was asked about those comments. "We support our coaches 100 percent as long as they're our coaches," said Haden. "Why would you support them 85 percent?"
Back in the present, Haden named defensive line coach Ed Orgeron as the Trojans' interim head coach for the next two months. Orgeron has spent a decade as a USC assistant and was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07. "We're here as a staff to answer the bell. We're all accountable for what happens - staff and the players," Orgeron said.
"We think he's going to do as good a job as you could possibly do under these circumstances," added Haden.
Both Orgeron and Haden want USC's next seven games to be different than their previous five. First, Orgeron hinted that he'd like to open the Trojans' practices back up to the media (compliance approval pending). Clay Helton will now be USC's offensive coordinator in practice - he will step in for Kiffin as the play-caller - instead of just title. And most importantly, as stated multiple times by both Haden and Orgeron, they want the players to start having fun.
Even if they're not happy to see their head coach go, the return of "fun" will be a welcome change after whatever it was USC experienced over its last 11 games.
If you're wanting answers for what happens after USC's regular-season finale versus UCLA on November 30, Haden didn't provide any answers.
"We're going to find the best candidate we possibly can for USC," said Haden. "I really don't want to talk about our search now. It's not fair to our team. Let's not worry about our next coach. We'll do that, but not right now. It's not the right time."
The full press conference can be seen below.