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T.J. SIMERS

Who stands to gain from Pete Carroll's departure?

Only Mike Garrett would see this as a good thing for the Trojans.

January 10, 2010|T.J. Simers

I presume the only holdup now is Uncle Pete trying to figure out a way to take his wannabe son Matt Barkley to Seattle.

Hey, what's one more NCAA infraction?

We sort of said our goodbyes Saturday, texting Pete Carroll to say, "It won't be as much fun sparring with you in Seattle," and Uncle Pete replying, "always love the sparring."

Haven't run into much better in this business, "always compete" his obsessive mantra with an eye on fun, and that included formal news conferences or private chats.

Oh well, as someone might say, "the football monopoly in L.A. is over," but talk about bad timing -- how about Aaron Corp's decision, atop getting hurt at the wrong time, of transferring to Richmond to start classes Monday.

Wonder what the new Trojans coach might've thought of Corp?

Nope, nothing's going right these days at USC, the president stepping down in August and apparently no longer engaged in school business, the basketball program slapped around, the NCAA looming in the shadows and Carroll seeking a way out after getting no support from athletic administrators after the Joe McKnight incident.

Put a call in to Mike Garrett on Saturday, his athletic department a shambles, and through a spokesman he said there will be an appropriate time to talk. My funeral, I would guess.

Now tell me what you think. Keeping in mind we're dealing with someone very strange here in Garrett, I wonder if he views Carroll's departure now as a blessing. It would give him someone to blame who is no longer at the university, while also allowing him to be a hero, rise above it all and hire USC's next great coach -- a fresh start for everyone.

No more Tim Floyd, no more Carroll, no more problems.

It would take someone pretty arrogant and aloof, dismissive of his own sins and blunders, while also feeling bulletproof when it comes to his own standing at the university to think such a way.

But just because the guy doesn't talk to me doesn't mean I don't know him.

When he does talk, it's almost too much. It's almost as if he was setting the stage for a split, rift or increased friction with Carroll when he did a radio interview last month.

"I don't think we played very well," Garrett said on "The Petros and Money Show."

"I was very dismayed by our whole season. I don't think we had one good game. I think we sloppily won some and sloppily lost four, and it was not a picture-perfect season."

That's pointing the finger directly at the coach, a coach darn near perfect until this season, and it's almost as if Garrett had been waiting for the chance to unload.

It might help explain Carroll's concerns and frustration in the days leading up to the Nut Bowl, bringing up Floyd's name and wondering out loud if the athletic administration was going to hang him out to dry like it did Floyd.

No question Carroll could feel the ground shifting beneath him as he tried to deal with the aftermath of McKnight's being caught driving a fancy car that did not belong to him.

He tried to honor the university's call not to discuss it, but he said it was his understanding McKnight had done nothing wrong. And he thought it was a mistake to keep him off the practice field leading up to the Nut Bowl if he had done nothing wrong.

He called USC's administrators, told them so and as he said none too happily after a Nut Bowl practice, he was ignored.

More than that, he complained about the way business was now being conducted in the athletic department, administrators distancing themselves from him.

Carroll continued making the calls, more adamant with each call, two days later McKnight joining the Trojans for practice, but the damage done.

We might never know the extent of the friction between Garrett and Carroll, but had Carroll stayed on the job, problems still lingering, there's no question Garrett would have had the feel of a lame duck.

With Carroll gone, Garrett starts fresh with a new coach who will have to rely on Garrett's input to assemble a winner -- Garrett infamous for giving his input before Carroll made anything he had to say irrelevant.

The obvious move is for Garrett to go after Oregon State's Mike Riley. He offered the job to Riley, who was coaching the Chargers at the time, before hiring Carroll.

Riley needed only to meet with President Steven Sample, but the Chargers interfered, one of the Spanos Goofs refusing to let Riley leave, although the Chargers were on the verge of wrapping up a 1-15 campaign.

When one of the Goofs changed his mind and freed Riley to talk to USC, Riley called Garrett asking for the job, Garrett coming to the telephone to tell him Carroll was in the next room signing a contract to coach the Trojans.

So far Riley has made no comment, and given the recruiting season, he would undoubtedly be screaming from the top of rooftops, "I'm not going anywhere," unless he really was.

Riley, as nice a man as I have met in sports in almost 40 years, probably failed for that reason with the Chargers. Most of your successful NFL coaches win with a scowl on their face and using the fear of losing one's job as a prime motivator.

It might explain why Carroll wasn't as successful with the Jets and Patriots, and good luck with the Seahawks.

But like Carroll, Riley is a motivator, has a way with people and is at home with college youngsters and their parents.

He might very well be just the right choice to save Garrett as Carroll did.

That's a lot to overcome, but I think people will still like him.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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