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T.J. SIMERS

For Pete's sake, does Mike Garrett get it?

USC's athletic director leaves Pete Carroll's news conference without uttering a word about the coach or the future of the program.

January 12, 2010|T.J. Simers

So I get to USC on Monday and Tim Tessalone, the school's sports information director, says Pete Carroll and Mike Garrett will speak at an afternoon news conference.

"You can get [Garrett] off to the side, too," Tessalone says, his way of suggesting I not dominate Garrett during the main news conference. "He stays at these things for as long as people want to talk to him."

Time for the news conference, and there are two chairs beside the podium, one presumably for Carroll and the other for Garrett.

Carroll enters the room and walks alone to the podium.

I take a seat along the right side of the room. Carroll begins speaking and a few minutes later Garrett takes the empty seat beside me. What a photo op.

In a whisper, we exchange pleasantries, but nothing more because Carroll is at the microphone a few feet away.

Carroll is talking much like a neighbor who might show home movies of his summer vacation. He's thanking his players, his coaches, administrators, the new chief of police and boring everyone in the room, while I'm looking out the corner of my eye to see if Garrett has nodded off again.

Carroll says he won't talk about Seattle and tells everyone his departure has nothing to do with the NCAA, Garrett or anything else that might suggest he's on the run.

"If anyone says something else, they're not telling the truth," he says, and this is the guy who brushed aside NFL questions every year because there was no reason to ask them because he wasn't going anywhere.

Yeah, you can believe whatever he says.

When it came time for questions, I told Carroll, "I can understand why you wouldn't want to burn bridges here, but scout's honor, the NCAA, the administrator sitting next to me and none of these other problems here had anything to do with your decision?"

He said, "No factor."

Believe what you want, time to move on and so Carroll's news conference over, I turned to Garrett and told him, "Your turn -- better be good."

With that, he stood and walked out of the room.

Now at the very least I would have thought he would have sat next to Carroll at the head table if all was so well between them. Or introduced him to start the news conference. Or shook his hand at some point.

Or, after hearing Carroll say only nice things about him, embraced him at the conclusion of the news conference.

When is the last time anyone has said nice things about Garrett, and he just sat there and then walked out of the room when he should have been jumping up and down.

At the very least, I expected to hear him speak to everyone in the room on the day USC began looking for a new coach, but he just walked out, using his wife as lead blocker to clear a path.

I followed, impressed with my own quickness, and asked if he was going to say anything.

"This is Pete's day," he says over his shoulder.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again, which doesn't bode well for his next assignment: hiring a replacement for Carroll.

"Pete Carroll is old news," I tell Garrett. "It's all about moving forward now for the folks at USC, and you're the guy who is supposed to take care of that."

"Yeah," says Garrett, and I think that's what he said, but once he hit open hallway, he was gone.

He reminded me at that moment of Andruw Jones, who just never got it, turning his back on the media and Dodgers fans, saying he really didn't care what Dodgers fans thought.

That seems to be Garrett's message to Trojans fans as well, and Trojans fans have to come up with a whole lot more money than Dodgers fans when it comes to supporting their favorite team.

Is Garrett so clueless? He has yet to speak on the departure of Carroll, USC issuing yet another statement with remarks attributed to Garrett, whether they are his own or the handiwork of a school statement writer, who knows.

Now it might appear here as if I'm always going after Garrett, which is true because he offers no other choice.

"He just needs to demonstrate he's human," is the way I put it to Tessalone. If he were to tell he wasn't surprised, or he was shocked, or hurt by Carroll's departure, he might make a connection with folks. All this time on the job, has he done so?

He has been called arrogant before, and now he seems pretty intent on driving the point home. He walked away with his wife, while trailed by a dozen reporters out of the Carroll news conference and never stopped. Not very professional.

He attended the news conference and he didn't think he would be asked questions?

He could have said how lucky he was to have found Carroll, while describing some of the qualities he hopes to find in a replacement. He could have talked all mushy and gushy like Carroll did about the last nine years.

He could have talked about school efforts to keep the recruiting process intact, and at the very least could have mentioned who is in charge of the football program on an interim basis.

He could have spoken to Trojans fans through reporters, TV folks and bloggers in attendance, Trojans fans just wanting to know the monopoly in L.A. really isn't over. He might've even taken a poke at the Bruins, pugnacious as he has been known to be, just to remind them that USC's recruits aren't going anywhere

Now I really don't care who the new coach will be. He's fresh meat for Page 2.

Carroll was a pro reject with no college experience when he was hired, but he turned out to be one of the game's best college coaches. It was a great ride, and a columnist's challenge to keep up.

But this is too easy, Garrett just a sitting duck, seemingly intent now on making himself a lame one.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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