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Q & A: USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett

AD says Lane Kiffin is a leader who is 'ready to bud'

Garrett says he wasn't concerned about Kiffin's 'secondary' violations with Tennessee and that his relationship with Pete Carroll was never strained.

January 14, 2010

Mike Garrett, USC's athletic director, paused for a one-on-one interview Wednesday afternoon before he introduced Lane Kiffin as the Trojans' new football coach. Times staff writer Gary Klein asked the questions and took the answers:

Question: Take me through the process of how you arrived at hiring Lane.

Answer: I won't go through the process because that's the way I operate. But when I'm looking for a coach, I'm looking for someone who is a leader and someone who can really recruit and manage a coaching staff and really be constructive with his student athletes.

Q: And you felt that he fit the bill?

A: Yes. The key to this one, though, is I don't always look for someone who has been successful -- I'm always looking for that time when they just get right at the cusp, where you can read them, and I think that this guy is ready. . . . I was with Pete Carroll when no one believed, and Kevin O'Neill I believe the same way in basketball, and you can do the same thing with Ron Allice in track and field. When I got him he was out there at Long Beach State and no one never really had a chance to go big-time Division I. I'm always looking for those people who just have paid their dues and are just ready, I think, to bud.

Q: Is there any concern that you just hired a coach who has six minor infractions behind him at Tennessee, in a year, and you're bringing him into a program that's under scrutiny?

A: That doesn't quite make sense.

Q: In terms of . . .

A: I wouldn't go after someone who I thought was going to commit violations and had a bad reputation and all that stuff. We looked into that and we got all the answers we needed. So that wasn't one of the fears. If that was one of the fears, then certainly the process would have stopped.

Q: So you don't think it sends a mixed message that USC is under scrutiny and you're bringing in someone who has developed somewhat of a reputation for playing loosely with the rules?

A: I think to be accurate on that; the things you're talking about are secondary violations. He has one that could be a violation, and we looked at that and asked all the questions we have, and I think we got all the answers we needed so we didn't feel that was a real concern. Now for him to come here, we know what we're facing and that's going to be facing it in a due time, and we feel good about what we're trying to do here. So, that was not the real big issue. . . . The real issue was, can I get a guy who can come here and run the program and continue the winning ways that we have.

Q: There have been some reports that USC will go before the NCAA Infractions Committee next month. Can you confirm that?

A: I won't confirm it, but we do meet in the near future and then that all will be adjudicated.

Q: Can you speak of how that process works? Did you have some contact with them before?

A: Those questions have to be answered by [USC spokesman] James Grant, because he's the point person on it. Talking about NCAA stuff is not why I'm here talking with you today.

Q: What is the status of the Joe McKnight situation?

A: That would be with compliance and with James Grant.

Q: You just announced recently some self-imposed penalties for the basketball situation. Do you feel any culpability in regard to Rodney Guillory having been through a series around . . .

A: Talking about NCAA stuff once again, that has to go through James Grant and that's the whole case. Those particulars would have to be presented to James Grant and he would get answers from our legal counsel.

Q: Your relationship with Pete Carroll. How would you describe it and was it strained at the end?

A: You guys take liberties and you guys are kind of like script writers now and then. I don't think Pete and I ever had a strained relationship, nor did we ever argue, nor did we ever raise voices. Actually, I can almost tell you that I was never angry at Pete Carroll. So when I heard that, I said that's creative writing, like much of the creative writing that I offered . . . a contract to [Jacksonville Jaguars Coach Jack] Del Rio and all that. I can't tell you where that came from. And now Pete and I are strained. I don't know where that came from either. That's just news to me.

Q: Was Lane Kiffin your first choice, or was [Oregon State's] Mike Riley your first choice?

A: Lane was the only one I talked to and made an offer to.

Q: Did you think you would be able to get it done sooner?

A: I thought we could close the deal in three or four days, and that's we were trying to do.

Q: You as the athletic director have been criticized over the years and recently for the chain of events that happened here. For the NCAA stuff, for Pete Carroll leaving. Some people have said you are responsible for that.

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