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Sarkisian could be headed to the Raiders

USC assistant, 32, meets again with Oakland's Davis amid reports he will become youngest coach in NFL. Kiffin also talks with Raiders.

January 19, 2007|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Amid several Bay Area reports that he will soon become coach of the Oakland Raiders, USC assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian continued to interview Thursday with owner Al Davis.

Sarkisian, 32, met with Davis on Jan. 8 and again on Wednesday and Thursday. USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin also was scheduled to meet with Sarkisian and Raiders officials on Thursday, a source said.

Neither Sarkisian nor Kiffin could be reached for comment. USC Coach Pete Carroll said he was unaware of the status of either assistant's interview.

Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and San Diego Chargers assistant James Lofton also interviewed with Davis, who fired Art Shell after a 2-14 season.

But Sarkisian, who worked as the Raiders' quarterbacks coach in 2004, was interviewed first and was regarded as the front-runner from the outset.

"I know they still want to talk to a couple other people. We'll see where we stand after that," Sarkisian said Monday. "I understand it's a process and I understand I was the first guy."

If the Raiders hire Sarkisian, he would become the youngest head coach in the NFL.

Davis has not shied from hiring young coaches. John Madden, Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden all became Raiders head coaches in their early or mid-30s.

Davis also has a history of drawn-out coaching searches, which has led to speculation that he also might be eyeing Josh McDaniels, the 30-year-old New England Patriots offensive coordinator. The Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game on Sunday, so McDaniels would not be available to interview until Monday at the earliest.

Former USC safety Darnell Bing said Raiders teammates spoke well of Sarkisian, who played quarterback at West Torrance High, El Camino College and Brigham Young.

"He's a well-respected guy," said Bing, who was drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round last year. "I think he can go up and change the whole environment and make the team a lot better."

If the Raiders hire Sarkisian, Carroll might also have to replace Kiffin and other assistants if they leave for Oakland.

Carl Smith, the Trojans' quarterbacks coach in 2004, was recently fired as offensive coordinator by the Jacksonville Jaguars and could make an easy transition to fill Sarkisian's spot as quarterbacks coach.

If Kiffin left, Smith also could be a candidate to become offensive coordinator.

Kiffin, 31, interviewed last week to become coach at the University of Minnesota, a job that went to Tim Brewster, the Denver Broncos' tight ends coach. Kiffin turned down an opportunity to interview for a spot on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama.

Kiffin also is the Trojans' receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.

gary.klein@latimes.com

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