Southern Cal may have found its next head coach, and the coaching search isn't even in full swing, as the Southern Cal Trojans defeated the Arizona Wildcats 38-31 in Ed Orgeron's debut as head coach for Southern Cal.
Orgeron, affectionately known as "Coach O", brings many positives. He's a great recruiter and brings an energy and intensity to the sidelines that was sorely lacking under Lane Kiffin. Southern Cal's players clearly agree:
"We love Coach O like a dad," linebacker Hayes Pullard said. "We look up to him. That's a great feeling. That's the bond you want to have with your family."
Orgeron's first game brought a new vibe to the Coliseum, which loved the coach's enthusiasm and passion for USC. Six fans in the front row of the student section painted "COACH O" on their bare chests -- a fitting tribute to a coach who was known to rip off his own shirt to fire up his players in his Ole Miss days.
"I think Coach O really brought something special to us," said right tackle Kevin Graf, who was recruited by Orgeron's former boss, Pete Carroll. "Coach O really brought Coach Carroll back. That meant a lot to me."
As ESPN LA's Arash Markaze writes, Coach O is a breath of fresh air bringing energy and fun back to the previously moribund Southern Cal program. And if the Trojans' win over Arizona is any indication, he may be just the man to bring back the glory days:
Ed Orgeron's official title is "interim head coach." The first word, however, seems inconsequential to almost everyone at USC.
Whatever Kiffin was doing before, Orgeron seemingly did the opposite. Practices were closed to the media under Kiffin; Orgeron opened them up. Injuries weren't discussed; Orgeron began rattling off the team's injury list daily. Sweets weren't allowed at the training table; he gave them cookies. Fatty foods were banned during team meals; he catered Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. Game film was the lone team activity the night before games; he took the team to a private screening of "Captain Philips" at Sony Studios.
Perhaps no one said it better than the LA Times' Gary Klein and Mike DiGiovanna:
Are we having fun yet? The answer for the USC football team, playing its first game under interim coach Ed Orgeron Thursday night, was a resounding "yes."
If the Trojans want the fun to continue, perhaps they need look no further than the man already leading the team. Hiring Orgeron would solve a lot of problems for Southern Cal Athletic Director Pat Haden. It would eliminate the distraction of a messy and prolonged coaching search and it would bring the team together under its new leader. Additionally, Orgeron already has head coaching experience, and that's vital for a program like Southern Cal. Additionally, as Bruce Feldman writes, Orgeron has learned from his mistakes when he coached at Mississippi, and the mistakes he made were largely as a result of intensity and preparation.
So we don't know what's next at Southern Cal, but we do know that it looks like Coach O is a winner. You only need to look at Clemson and the success Dabo Swinney has had after replacing Tommy Bowden as interim coach to know that this is an idea that can really work when the team rallies around the interim coach as it has around Coach O.