Friday, October 13, 2006

USC Football Pre-Game: How We Do It, Part II

Leading up to last week’s Washington game, Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote a nice piece that explains Pete Carroll’s winning formula, but not all of it. We’ve seen bits and pieces of Carroll’s approach in various comments and in different contexts, but Miller presents a nice CliffsNotes version.

He leads with a take on a simple question we’ve all been asking ourselves, as Carroll has pulled in one No. 1 recruiting class after another: How does he get a kid like Emmanuel Moody to sign a letter of intent, when three other high school All-American running backs have also committed to USC?

To this we’ll add: How did we get so many great – not just good, but great – linebackers all in one place? How did we get the No. 1 wide receiver in the country to commit to USC three years in a row (Dwayne Jarrett, Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton)? How did we get the No. 1 overall recruit for ’07 (running back Mark Tyler), while also snagging Broderick Green out of Little Rock, Ark. – with the aforementioned Moody, Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable, and Stafon Johnson already enrolled?

Apparently, the answer is simple. USC Football under Carroll has created “a cult of competitiveness” built on maintaining an edge and the idea of team over the individual with no guarantees. We’ve heard this before, but we’ll let Carroll restate it as Miller quoted him:
"One of the key statements that I make to the team is that we're going to do things better than it's ever been done before," Carroll said. "That mentality has to be throughout. It has to be woven through the fabric that we will not rest, that we will not settle, that we will be relentless in pursuit of a competitive edge."
The youthful exuberance of a man half his age, the John Wooden dynasty management and the relentless salesmanship are all familiar to us. But, Miller pulls out the philosophical stuff we know the east coast biased idiots don’t get:
[Carroll is] an evangelist of focus and preparation, of living and working in the moment instead of looking ahead or behind. He tells his players to focus on the present -- not just the game ahead, not just the next practice, but the next play at practice. …

"I don't take that much pride in what's already happened," he said. "It's OK. But what are you going to do now? What's your next step?"
Mark Sanchez, our current No 2 quarterback and a former national high school player of the year, adds some insight here:
"… It's just about winning [at USC]. … If a coach [recruiting you] promises something, you know he's promising someone else. And if a coach talks bad about his own players, he might talk bad about you the next year to incoming recruits. What [Carroll] said to me was, 'We have great quarterbacks here. We think you're great. You can compete with those guys. I'm not going to tell you you can start here. But I think you're good enough to play here.' "

It's not just about getting the best athletes, though that's obviously exactly what Carroll does. He emphasizes evaluating competitiveness almost as much. He wants great athletes who want to beat out other great athletes. He also wants them to hate losing as much as he does, so they buy into the idea of team over individual.
This is good stuff, and a few ADs have recognized as much. They’ve tried to duplicate Mike Garrett’s luck – let’s be honest here – looking for Pete-like NFL rejects and philosophers. But lightning doesn’t strike twice.

Examples include Bill Callahan (reject) at Big Red, who looks more like Paul Hackett than Carroll; Dan Hawkins (philosopher), who is drawing Buffalo blanks without a blue field to play on; and Dave Wannstedt (reject), who has Pitt “winning,” albeit in the Small East.

As these wannabes are finding out, it ain’t easy to replicate what Carroll created and continues to nurture at USC. If they want to ask Carroll how he’s done it, he won’t be telling them much. He keeps the really good stuff inside Heritage Hall.

We know this because, unlike the old coaches who made visiting and learning from each other during the spring a standard practice, that sharing stuff isn’t part of Carroll’s new school process. As Ivan Maisel reported on espn.com earlier this year, our man Carroll plays it close to the vest no matter what. It doesn’t matter who you are, dagummit!
[UConn head coach Randy] Edsall said he had been turned down only once. When he first got to Connecticut in 1999, he wanted to visit the New York Jets camp. Head coach Pete Carroll told him no, because Edsall had been an assistant for then-Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, and Carroll didn't want to risk that any information would trickle down to an AFC rival. Edsall understood. …

Now that Carroll is at USC, he allows no outside coaches to visit. Not even legends.

"I talked to Pete a couple of years ago," [Bobby] Bowden said. "I said, 'I sure would like to go out there and talk to Norm Chow. He said, 'We don't do that.'"
Back in the days when a coach could literally achieve tenure at a school, perhaps sharing made sense to the coaching fraternity. But when you live and breathe (there’s that word again) a belief that USC is “going to do things better than it's ever been done before," it simply doesn’t make sense to join the good ole’ boy network.

As Carroll told Miller, "The goals I have, have no end. I want to win forever. It's not winning a championship. It's how many can you win."

Again, this is how we do it. Fight On! Beat the Sun Devils!
east coast bias

1 comment:

CrazyTrojan said...

There were some great quotes from Carroll's Tuesday press conference. I don't read those transcripts very often, so I don't know if he says this kind of stuff every week: http://crazytrojan.blogspot.com/2006/11/perfect.html