USC hires Carroll as head coach
Updated: Friday December 15, 2000 9:45 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Pete Carroll, who turned down the Southern California coaching job three years ago because of the timing, accepted the position Friday, saying he believes the fit is ideal.
"I believe I am tailored for this, it's quite clear," he said. "I'm very energetic, I'm very enthusiastic, I just think this is right.
"I'm going to a place where there are great expectations. That's where I want to be."
The 49-year-old Carroll succeeds Paul Hackett, fired Nov. 27 -- two days after the Trojans completed a 5-7 campaign. It was their first losing season since 1991 and just their third in 39 years.
The Trojans have won eight national championships, but none since 1978, and 20 of the 28 Rose Bowls in which they've played. But they've appeared in only one in the last 11 years.
"We'll be good when we're good," Carroll said, without establishing a timetable. "My goal is to win right now."
Fired from head coaching jobs with the New York Jets and New England Patriots of the NFL and out of the college game for 17 years, Carroll wasn't USC's first choice. And his selection has already met with disapproval from some boosters and alumni.
"I've been an unpopular choice at times," he said. "It is a challenge. I'm going to prove (the USC hierarchy) right. I want to make (the fans) proud. I don't need anybody to give me pep talks or fire me up."
Carroll said recruiting would be his first priority, and right behind was settling up a coaching staff.
"Talk is cheap right now, we have to get to work," he said. "My teams are going to play hard, they're going to play with enthusiasm, they're going to play with a great intensity. If they're not, we're not doing our job."
Carroll said the fact that he hasn't coached in college since 1983, when he was assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Pacific, his alma mater, wasn't a big deal.
"I don't think I could be more prepared to move into this situation," he said. "I've always coached college players, I just got them a little later.
"If you can understand the process in the NFL, in the draft process it's all about watching players in college. I don't consider myself unfamiliar with the college game at all."
He has no past ties to USC, although his daughter, Jaime, is a freshman on the school's women's volleyball team. However, he said having grown up in the San Francisco area, he's well aware of the Trojans' tradition.
USC went 19-18 in Hackett's three seasons, and has a 31-29 record in the last five years. Fired with two years remaining on his contract, Hackett became the Trojans' coach after Carroll, coaching the Patriots at the time, turned down the offer.
"The timing wasn't right, but that has all changed now," he said. "For a guy like me, for the things I like to do, this is a golden opportunity. We have the caliber of athlete here to do the things I know how to do very well."
When Hackett was fired, athletic director Mike Garrett said he wanted a coach who was a proven winner at the college level, and immediately took steps in that direction.
But both Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson and Oregon coach Mike Bellotti signed contract extensions at their respective schools within a week of Hackett's firing, taking themselves out of the running.
Since then, San Diego Chargers coach Mike Riley, an assistant at USC from 1993-96 and head coach at Oregon State in 1997-98, was believed to be the leading candidate.
"I loved my time at USC, but I've got a great job, too, and you can only do one job at a time," said Riley, who was not offered the job.
Garrett said the only person he offered the job to previously was Erickson, and admitted he has received a lot of angry calls regarding the possibility of Carroll's hiring.
When asked what he would tell those who disapprove, Garrett smiled and said, "Have faith."
"I offered the job to Pete three years ago, he couldn't take it," Garrett said. "It became obvious after (Erickson) dropped out that Pete would be a natural. I've always liked the way Pete coaches."
Carroll has been out of coaching this year after being fired by the Patriots following the 1999 season. They were 27-21 in three years under Carroll, reaching the playoffs twice.
He coached the Jets in 1994, but was fired after they went 6-10.
"He sounds sincere," said USC linebacker Mike Pollard, who has two years of eligibility remaining. "I think he's the perfect fit; we need sincerity, someone who's dedicated to improving the program. I think he's the one. We have all the athletes."
Before taking the New England job, Carroll was an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers for two years.
"Pete Carroll is a great pro coach, but he's going to thrive in college," said former 49ers quarterback Steve Young. "He will recruit. If Pete Carroll walked into my house, there's no way I could turn him down. He'll dominate down there."