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T.J. SIMERS

As Lane Kiffin is introduced, so is a bit of suspicion

Assistant coach Ed Orgeron's Tuesday night phone calls to Tennessee recruits raises questions about how things will run under 'The Kid.'

January 14, 2010|T.J. Simers

I began a vacation Wednesday, scheduled to play golf, but immediately volunteered to work again, overtime if necessary, rushing to USC to be there for the introduction of Lane Kiffin.

What a great hire, the best one Mike Garrett could make, and I would like to publicly thank him for his good work.

How can anyone in the media find fault with this?

I just don't get Plaschke, sounding as if he doesn't want the guy here, the USC student paper also noting in headlines: "Fast hire seems desperate" and "Questions surround Kiffin's quick hiring."

I guess we have to hope newspapers go out of business before these kids grow up to take Plaschke's place.

I'm telling you if I was giving any thought to retirement down the road, no sir, sign me up for as long as possible. I might even learn how to twitter.

If Jerry Crowe wasn't doing such a great job on Page 2, I'd ask to work four days a week rather than three during the football season.

Is this not a columnist's dream?

Only way Garrett could have topped this would have been by hiring Jerry Tarkanian to take over the basketball program or work as compliance officer.

Now maybe someone else sees it as some kind of show of arrogance, USC getting ready to meet the NCAA next month and Garrett hiring the guy who set the rookie record for most secondary violations in a season.

Not me. I see it as a Page 2 bonanza, first day in business and one of the two assistant coaches hired so far -- the other one being Kiffin's father -- already prompting the media to call the NCAA to find out if it's a violation to call Tennessee recruits and encourage them not to enroll in school so they might play for USC right away.

No idea if there was any NCAA violation -- just looking for truthful answer.

This, after The Kid begins his first news conference as USC coach telling everyone he's going to have a "clean, disciplined program." First words out of his mouth.

So is USC dirty already, assistant coach Ed Orgeron getting down in the mud at a time when the Trojans have already been called on the NCAA carpet?

Was Orgeron trying to outsmart the system, or was it a move that just wasn't that smart? Is this how he does business? Then why did The Kid hire him? Is this the kind of program The Kid wants to run?

Kiffin said he had been flying all day and hadn't had the opportunity to talk to Orgeron, but he said "it's inaccurate," reports that Orgeron had called Tennessee recruits.

I asked for clarification from The Kid because if he hadn't talked to Orgeron how did he know if the reports were inaccurate? Later, of course, we would find out they were not inaccurate.

At that point it was like talking to one of my daughters, caught doing something wrong and when challenged and having nothing to say, it never stopped them from trying to double-talk their way out of it.

The Kid got flustered, waved his hands and began spewing gibberish. If I reproduced a transcript of everything he had to say, it would probably sound like something Garrett said. And since none of it made any sense, I repeated the line of questioning. Again and again.

That's when Garrett moved in to say, "Let's move on," a pretty good indication we'll probably see him in the Trojans' locker room at halftime again when The Kid really appears stumped.

Orgeron stood against a wall as if waiting for his mug shot to be taken when surrounded by reporters. First day on the job and he was already citing the 5th Amendment.

"I'm not going to answer that," he said when asked if he called Tennessee recruits, already drawing suspicion to himself with his reluctance to answer.

If The Kid is so insistent on running a clean program, then why is one of his coaches doing everything but pulling his shirt over his head to avoid having his picture taken?

That's when USC sports information director Tim Tessalone stepped in, and he's been doing that a lot lately, which makes you wonder if the Trojans have something to hide.

"He's already answered the question," Tessalone said, and around USC these days when it comes to possible sanctions, that's how everyone pretty much answers the question -- with a non-answer.

"That's all you're going to get," said Tessalone, but then I've watched enough "Law & Order" to know better.

Under more grilling, Orgeron cracked, and said "yes" he had called recruits. Maybe that's what The Kid meant -- USC will come clean when caught.

YESSIREE, I just love this hire. How can you spend another minute listening to anything Mike Dunleavy, Ben Howland or whatever the guy's name coaching USC basketball?

USC football fans are going to love The Kid because he's liable to say anything, and now we know the only assistant coach he's hired besides his old man is liable to do anything.

OK, so he was a little disappointing when I offered him the chance to fire off a shot in the direction of Rick Neuheisel or Jim Harbaugh.

"I have great respect for every coach," The Kid said, and don't you just love it when a coach announces from the very start he's not always going to tell the truth.

When The Kid was finished, a number of USC supporters took exception with Page 2's line of questioning by tossing around some cuss words, struggling apparently with the concept of what a news conference is all about.

But the day over, the reason I love this job so much, it's the unexpected -- Garrett hugging me.

That's right, he hugged me, and who knows what's next -- maybe double-dating. Love to see the look on his wife's face when he mentions that.

He answered questions about the NCAA investigation, saying "we think we have a case" when it comes to football and never once made a run for it.

"I'm trying to be nice," Garrett said, and I've got to tell you, he wasn't even reading from a statement.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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