In September 2013, Lane Kiffin was fired as head coach of the USC Trojans, this after getting embarrassed in a 62-41 loss at Arizona State. That setback came just three weeks after a 10-7 home loss to Washington State.
Enter Ed Orgeron, who had been with USC from 1998 to 2004 before returning in 2010. Orgeron became the interim head coach and led the Trojans to victory in six of their next seven games, the only loss coming by four points at Notre Dame.
A few days after a 35-14 loss to UCLA in the regular-season finale, however, it was announced that Orgeron would not be named the official head coach; rather, that honor would go to Steve Sarkisian.
Doug Gottlieb asked Orgeron, who is taking this year off, what it was like coaching under Kiffin, especially since there was a disconnect between the two in terms of how they wanted to run the program.
“That’s not really true because I was like Lane’s right-hand man,” Orgeron clarified on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We were running our program together. I was right in there with him doing the things that we (were) doing – (and) in agreement with most of the things. When I became interim head coach, there were some things I had written down that I wanted to change, some mistakes I had made as a head football coach. So that’s the program you saw me implement. It had nothing to do with what we were doing. It was some of the things I wanted to do as a head coach.”
“Loosen up the atmosphere a little bit,” Orgeron said. “I wanted (the players) to know that I cared about them and we were going to play as one team, one heartbeat. Loosen up and have fun. And we did it.”
Orgeron also gave his assistant coaches a little more freedom, which is something Kiffin apparently didn’t do.
“There’s obviously some things that I saw that wasn’t working (when I was an assistant),” Orgeron said. “And when you’re sitting in back as an assistant, you have an advantage. But I thought (Kiffin) tried his best and we tried our best as a staff.”
After USC announced it would hire Sarkisian, Orgeron decided against coaching the Trojans’ bowl game, a 45-20 win over Fresno State. Orgeron said he loved his time at USC and was extremely grateful for the opportunity; he just felt it was the right time to step away.
“Those eight weeks were the best eight weeks of my life,” he said.
These days, Orgeron, 53, is focused on watching his son play high school football, but he’d like to coach again – provided that the right opportunity comes along.
“We’re looking for a school that wants me, that’s interested in me and knows who I am,” said Orgeron, who is known as a great recruiter with a lot of energy. “If not, we’re going to do what we need to do. Something good is going to come along.”