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.