Sarkisian May Not Be the Best Hire For USC, But He’s Not the Wrong One Either

Nov 15, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian leads players onto the field before the game against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When USC athletic director Pat Haden hired Steve Sarkisian to be the Trojans’ new head coach, he did not hit the ball out of the park.

No one can call this a home run hire. Not the former players who took to Twitter to praise Sarkisian’s virtues. Not the media pundits who tried to counter balance apoplectic USC fans on internet message boards. Not even Haden himself, who responded to the question of how it was going with “I’ve had better days.”

The statement says it all.

Haden might call the hire bittersweet. After all, he got his man, the one he says his gut feels is right. However, hiring Sarkisian meant losing the beloved interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

Orgeron’s departure had players crying instead of getting excited about a new era. It had fans outraged.

After all, Sarkisian’s record at Washington is nothing to write home about. In five seasons with the Huskies he posted a 34-29 record, barely above .500. In fact, ousted USC head coach Lane Kiffin had a better win percentage in the Pac-12.

The Kiffin connection does little to help him either. For many, Sarkisian is just another attempt by USC to reach into the past in hope that some of that Pete Carroll fairy dust rubbed off on one of his assistants. Like Kiffin, Sarkisian is a young coach who has fed off of potential rather than results.

This was certainly not a home run. However, it was not a strike out either.

It has been rightfully pointed out that there is more to Sarkisian’s mediocre record at Washington than meets the eye. He took over a program that had one 12 games in the five years before his arrival. Suddenly, that 34 win record looks that little bit brighter.

Essentially the Sarkisian hire was a solid base hit by a player with the ability to perhaps steal second.

Sarkisian may not be the headliner that the Trojans were looking for, but he is a capable head coach with a proven recruiting track record and the personality to thrive in Los Angeles. His offensive scheme produced the second most total yards in the Pac-12 this year and his Huskies sit third in the conference in scoring offense, well ahead of the 28.5 points the Trojans put up this season.

And, if you will forgive the baseball metaphor just a bit longer, the Trojans are not on the scoreboard yet with Sarkisian, but they have capable hitters batting clean up who could very well send him dashing home.

If, as has been reported, Sarkisian is bringing along highly-regarded assistant coaches like defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, then he will have a formidable staff to boost his efforts.

As with all coaching hires, it will take time to determine if Sarkisian is the right fit. But if the Trojan are patient enough, they might just find that small-ball can win games too.

Topics: Pat Haden, Steve Sarkisian, USC Football, USC Trojans

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  • Mick Rose

    As Sark is our new Head Coach, I say, welcome home & Fight On!
    I hope he can recruit well and is able to train our very young QBs.
    I will miss CEO.
    I remember that Coach Pete Carroll was not the school or the alumni & fan’s first choice…. but how did that turn out??? 3 Heismans, 2 National Championships… Lots of fun and swagger! I hope Coach Sark can bring us back to those days.
    Fight On

    • Alicia de Artola

      One thing that eases my mind about Sarkisian is the personality. He’s a good fit for the LA scene, at least moreso than Lane Kiffin.
      His biggest problem will be dealing with expectation and he’s got a tough first game as head coach against Fresno State next year. Drop that one and there will be hell to pay.

  • Ben Factor

    It’s not that Sark isn’t famous and splashy.

    Do you see any signs of greatness in Sarkisian? He coached at UW for five years, in a program that enjoyed very good success at times in the past. He had a big budget. Did you see any evidence that Sark is special?

    Unfortunately, Pete Carroll is not really analogous. He was taking his first whack as college HC, and benefited from less parity in the Pac-12 and a weak cross-town rival.

    Supposedly, Peterson did want the job, but Haden saw risks with the press.

    Supposedly, Franklin was interested, but Haden feared a cover-up in the rape case. It could still happen, but months have passed.

    I think that Sumlin played USC.

    No one from a much lesser school was seriously considered. No assistant coach was seriously considered.

    Haden put risk avoidance first, and a high ceiling second. We’ll see how that works out.

    • Alicia de Artola

      Your final sentence hits the nail on the head.
      As for Sark being special. No I don’t see anything in particular that makes me think he is special. He does, however, have enough of the qualities you look for in a head coach to ease my mind about this being a potential disaster.
      The real problem was the complete lack of “special” coaches available. It is becoming more and more clear that Peterson and USC both believed that he wasn’t the right fit for Los Angeles and his Boise teams have not exactly lit the world on fire these past couple years.
      Franklin is basically an SEC version of Sarkisian in many ways. Great personality, took a down and out team and made them mediocre. Would I call him special? Perhaps, but that’s a huge step up from Vandy to USC. Throw in the off-the-field concerns and I think Haden was justified in steering clear.
      A lot of people might have been high on Sumlin but I never bought it after some consideration. I’d need to see him without Johnny Manziel pulling the strings to know for sure that he’s anything but a flash in the pan. Is he special or is his player?