Steve Sarkisian: ‘I Love The Challenge Of Coaching USC’

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(Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

(Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Steve Sarkisian, in less than three days, went from head coach at Washington to head coach at USC.

“I heard from him after the ball game Saturday night,” Sarkisian said on The Doug Gottlieb Show, referring to USC athletic director Pat Haden. “I had just got done watching the game and . . . the process began. Sure enough, in a short amount of time, I was able to be named the head football coach here at USC, and I couldn’t be more honored and humbled to be that, quite honestly.”

Sarkisian was introduced Tuesday as the 23rd coach in program history.

One of five candidates interviewed by Haden – and the only one offered the job –Sarkisian went 34-29 over five seasons at Washington. He inherited a Huskies squad that went 0-12 in 2008 and had them in a bowl game two years later.

“Initially, (our meeting) was about the state of Southern Cal football and my thoughts on USC and then the job that we had done at Washington and who I was as a coach,” Sarkisian said. “I’d known Pat on a personal level, but I didn’t know him on a professional level that way, so there was a lot of discussion about my philosophies (and about) what I believe in. It was a great conversation. Never once did it feel like an interview. This was a very comfortable conversation, and I think both of us walked away feeling, ‘You know what? I could work with that guy.’”

Sarkisian was twice an assistant coach at UCS – from 2001-2003 and, following a one-year stint with the Raiders, from 2005 to 2008. He spent the last five years at Washington.

“It was difficult, but it was a great ride,” Sarkisian said of Washington. “I’m proud of what we did there. For a team that was 0-12 (and) hadn’t been to a bowl game in over 10 years, for us to go in there and (to have) earned our fourth consecutive bowl game now, I think that program is very, very close. And whoever gets that job, it’s a great job. Whoever gets that job is going to walk into a really good situation with great kids, talented kids, talented players and amazing facilities. It was a lot of hard work to get to this point. Somebody’s going to get to go in there and reap some of the benefits of that hard work, but at the end of the day, I’m proud of the fact that that program’s in a much better place today than it was when we took over five years ago.”

Sarkisian hopes to say the same thing about USC in a few years.

Lane Kiffin began the season as head coach but was fired in September following a 62-41 loss at Arizona State, which wound up going 10-2 and winning the Pac-12 South division title. That loss, however, came just three weeks after USC lost at home, 10-7, to Washington State. The Trojans totaled just 193 yards that night, including a paltry 54 through the air, as Kiffin was booed loudly by the Coliseum faithful.

Ed Orgeron was named interim coach following Kiffin’s dismissal and led USC to victory in six of its final eight games, included a 20-17 win over then-No. 4 Stanford on Nov. 16.

Orgeron apparently wanted the head-coaching job at Southern Cal, but the most Haden would offer was a lucrative assistant-coaching gig. Orgeron resigned as a result.

Sarkisian said he plans to reach out to Orgeron on Wednesday.

“I’m thankful for Ed, for one,” Sarkisian said. “I think he did a tremendous job over the last two months. That was not an easy situation, and I don’t know if anybody could have envisioned it going better than it did. I’ve known Ed a long time. He’s a really good football coach, he’s an excellent recruiter, he’s a good man and he’s going to find a great job. Somebody’s going to get a good football coach.”

Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will coach USC (9-3, 6-3) in its bowl game. After that, it’s all on Sarkisian.

“For myself, it’s about coming in and being me,” he said. “I’m coming in here to take this place to new heights and to heights that we haven’t been to in a while. And it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be through hard work. It’s going to be through developing great relationships and trust and belief in one another and getting these players to get to know me on a personal level as we continue to build the staff and recruit and do all those things.

“I love the challenge. I’m fired up for the challenge. And as I said, we’re just getting started.”

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