But there are other kinds of filters. The kind that Lane Kiffin lacks is the one that governs behavior. True, he’s made headlines with verbal blasts, but those were usually intentional, to attract attention. What Kiffin needs more than anything else is a competitiveness filter.
And given that it’s highly unlikely he recognizes the need for one in his life, he probably won’t have a long career as head football coach at USC.
Kiffin recently angered the Tennessee Titans and their head coach, Jeff Fisher — a proud USC alumnus — when he poached a coach. Now the Titans have responded with a lawsuit.
First off, the Titans are not suing Kiffin just because they feel it’s the appropriate legal response, and to dissuade anybody from doing something similar in the future. These things happen from time to time. Contracts are broken. Woo hoo.
They’re probably doing so because Kiffin stiffed the University of Tennessee for USC, the state hates him, there are lots of fat cat season-ticket holders who undoubtedly put pressure on the Titans to exact revenge, and everybody there wants to feel good about making Kiffin feel bad.
But Kiffin brought this upon himself because he has no filter. He sees himself as a competitor. To him, that means everything is fair game. Kiffin will go after your recruits if he can. He’ll go after your coaches. He’ll go after your parking space. If you’re just ahead of him in line for a movie and you ask him to hold your place while you go get something from your car, you might as well go directly to the end of the line, because Lane Kiffin isn’t letting you get ahead of him again.
Kiffin was raised by football dad Monte. Lane has been around football all his life. All he knows is compete, compete, compete, win, win, win. And not only does he feel he needs no filter, he doesn’t understand the concept of one.
That all makes him the absolutely perfect choice as head football coach at USC — under Mike Garrett. That’s because Garrett — the man who hired Kiffin — was that way, too. He has no filter, either. If Garrett’s tenure as athletic director will be remembered for anything, it will be for his brusque manner, bunker mentality and lack of people skills. I remember being at a USC road game in the ’90s at Cal when Garrett threw a loud tantrum in the press box because the host school didn’t provide him with his own private luxury box. That’s Mike Garrett.
The problem for Kiffin is that Pat Haden is taking over for Garrett next month as athletic director. And Kiffin and Haden are about as compatible as British Petroleum and the Sierra Club.
Also, he comes along just after the University of Southern California got hit with sanctions in its football, men's basketball and women’s tennis programs. He is acutely aware of the school’s tattered image, and keenly dedicated to restoring it back to a position of respect in NCAA athletics.
This puts Kiffin and Haden at cross purposes. Haden wants to win with integrity. Kiffin just wants to win, and the school’s image is not on his radar. He’s not a scoundrel. He just doesn’t get it.
If Kiffin had checked himself just a tiny bit, he would have called Fisher and asked if he could hire away Kennedy Pola for a job as running backs coach and offensive coordinator. He would have apologized for the lousy timing, but would have appealed to Fisher’s Trojan roots and humbly requested a favor.
Fisher very well might have said no. But after a day or two, he would have relented. Fisher wouldn’t want to go to work every day knowing he prevented a good guy and loyal Trojan such as Pola from advancing in his career. Eventually he would have said yes to Kiffin’s request.
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