The chicken was well done and dry and the scant mushroom sauce couldn’t save the dish let alone make up for the cold saffron rice. We joked at the Herd Table that we hoped they weren’t serving Pete Carroll and Tim Floyd the same food, maybe they had some prime rib stowed away just for the head table. We also commented on how much better the food was at Brookside where Sean Kennelly throws his San Gabriel Trojan Club bashes, but I digress, my name isn’t Yucca and I’m not going to get quoted in the Times for being a faux gourmand and apprising the fitness of the Pasadena Hilton’s wine menu.
The night was about hearing Tim Floyd and Pete Carroll give their pitches, and the Herd definitely got their money’s worth, poor chicken substitute meal notwithstanding. Sean Kennelly introduced memorial videos of Ryan Francis and Mario Danelo, and that drove the point home, that we should appreciate what we have, and the fact that we’re Trojans sitting in a nice Pasadena ballroom waiting in rapt attention to hear our coaches speak is a very beautiful thing, and that bad chicken isn’t the worst thing in the world. Plus, any night you have 3 Chaffey High alums at the same table and nobody gets put in handcuffs, it's a good night.
Tim Floyd started the night off by stating, “I’ve come to terms that I’m a basketball coach at a football school. I have a counselor. He’s helped me a lot. And the Prozac is working well too.” He continued, “when I was hired, I thought the whole Trojan family thing was a bunch of malarkey, but I went along with it, but boy, you all have proven me wrong. It is a wonderful thing. I’m now a Trojan through and through, and since I’m in the Galen Center, I even miss the band practicing outside my office in Heritage Hall, every night, all night long…If my team practiced as hard as the band, we’d have won a national championship.”
Coach Floyd talked about missing 55 points a year from losing Young, Pruitt and Stewart, and that’s the most any PAC-10 team is losing, but they have Gibson, Hackett and Mayo, and the number #1 recruiting class coming in, so they should be okay. They’re also playing the number #1 most difficult schedule, playing like 16 ranked teams out of conference including Memphis and Kansas, and USC is even trying to schedule Florida for next year. But, Floyd said, “we’re USC” and that’s what we do, we play hard schedules. Floyd talked about what a great basketball player Mayo is, but that the media is wrong about him, “he’s a good kid, a yes sir, no sir kind of kid, a good student, and he’s going to represent the University well.”
Floyd shared this story about Mayo, “The Kid came out for a recruiting trip. Instead of going out to the Los Angeles nightlife with Young and Pruitt, he asked me to open the gym for him. The kid shot baskets in the Galen Center from midnight to 3 in the morning. I’ve never had a kid want to do that.”
Floyd says he knows Mayo will only be there one year, but that he’s trying to build a program, and he can’t keep a kid from making $30 million when he has a chance. That’s what he told Young, “You got to go. You’ve got to sign that guaranteed 1st round contract.” But he thought Pruitt made a big mistake, “he’s going to lose a lot of money.” Coach Floyd seemed like he was caught off guard by both players deciding to turn pro, but that’s why he’s preparing already for Mayo to leave, “I need to start recruiting now for his replacement.” Floyd was very excited about last year, but says they are building a program, and that he’s so happy to be working for Mike Garrett and Heritage Hall who do everything for you as a coach. And what a wonderful friend and co-worker Pete is. Pete helps Tim recruit, and has taught Tim that coaching is fun, “You guys have to be thankful you have Pete Carroll here, he’s the best coach in the country, in all sports.” Coach Floyd said Pete gave a pep talk to the team before the Stanford game, when USC was 9-7 and really needed a win, and the team responded big. But Pete also gave a pep talk before the Oregon game in the PAC-10 tournament, when Oregon blew USC out. Pete joked, “Yeah, you guys stunk in that game, I had to leave before halftime.”
Floyd finished by thanking the crowd for the 7 straight sell outs to end the season, and he thanks USC fans and boosters for their support in building the Galen Center, “the greatest stadium in the country.” He's also predicting full houses all this year, “I know people want to come out and see O.J. Mayo, the kid wants to be the star of his generation. That’s a lofty goal. But it’s going to be fun to watch. ESPN is booking games and tournaments for us just for O.J. Mayo, so I know we’re going to sell a lot of tickets.”
Pete was up next and said, “I love Pasadena! It’s our home, that Rose Bowl is our home, and that’s our goal every year. (photo left: GAB and Brooks fighting over the tip. They didn't leave one.) We can’t control the BCS, but we can control winning our conference and playing in the Rose Bowl every year. How great was that win against Michigan last January?”
He said, “I’m glad to be back here speaking in front of you again, and I am back here. You all know I took a trip to Costa Rica and he didn’t offer me the job (or I didn’t accept the job)…and guess what, I’m here forever! (the crowd went nuts) Even if they get tired of me on the football side of things, Tim said I can be his assistant coach for basketball.”
(Someone on Peristyle thought this story below was inside info, but heck it’s about a pep talk. Sorry if I’m giving away Pete’s secrets, but we know he’s full of adrenaline and likes to pump guys up. Is that news? I guess they can ban me from the next dinner if this is covert stuff)
Pete really didn’t talk about last year except to say, “Everyone talks about our great halftime adjustments. You know what happened at the Rose Bowl? Before the game, I told the guys, “I want everyone to have the best time at that game. We’re going to be dancing on the sideline, having fun.” Well, we all got into the game, and before you know it, it’s halftime and the score is 3-3. We’re going off field, and I thought to myself, “Heck, I forgot, we’re not having fun.” I pulled Sark aside and said, “We want to have a good time in the 2nd half, I want you to pass every play.” And I think that’s the last time I talked to a coach all halftime. I went in to a quiet locker room, and I grabbed walk-on Jimmy Abbott and said, “Jimmy, I know you’re not going to play, you know you’re not going to play, but I want you to have a great time. I want you yelling for your teammates, jumping up and down the whole game.” Then I went to big Thomas Herring and said the same thing. We ran out for the 2nd half. Lawrence Jackson got an interception. Cushing got a fumble recovery. We scored both times. That long pass to Dwayne Jarrett. And I look over and our sidelines are going nuts! Everyone’s having a great time. And the Michigan guys, they were hanging their heads, not moving! Now, that’s coaching!”
Pete talked about Kiffin leaving to the Raiders, “Isn’t that great for Lane, the youngest coach in the NFL. I’m excited for him. I’m going to go see him at mini camp this week.” The crowd didn’t respond. Pete shrugged, “Ohh, I guess you guys don’t like the Raiders.” Pete continued, “We hired Johnny Morton. No, not the guy who got knocked out with one punch the other night. He’s still a member of the Trojan family.” Pete said “Morton is one of the best coaches in the NFL. He worked with Sark in Oakland, and he studied our films for a year to see how to use Reggie Bush as he was the passing game coordinator for the Saints last year. He likes the opportunity that USC gives him, and he’s going to help us a lot.”
When talking about the oncoming season Pete said he was excited, “We have the Heisman Trophy frontrunner leading us. That’s exciting. We’re number 1, but the players know that doesn’t mean anything. We have to earn it. Every week. Every play in practice. We have to go hard and earn it. It’s exciting. USC is on the lips of every recruit across the country, it’s exciting. The number one team, the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, it doesn’t get any better than this.”
One of the questions was about the running back situation, “Coach, you have 10 great running backs. How do you make them all happy?” Coach Floyd stepped in, “I’ll answer that one. Joe McKnight is from Louisiana. I’m from Louisiana. I say you give the ball to the kid from Louisiana.” Pete said it’s all about competition.
Somebody asked about Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain. Pete sounded excited about Corp, saying “he’s got a great arm, he’s 6’5” and he can move. And Mustain is also an athlete. He’s going to impress people. They’re going to have a great competition with Mark Sanchez next year. And Mark is going to battle John David this fall too. That’s going to be a great competition.”
With that, Tim Floyd leaned in and said, “How’s your Heisman Trophy frontrunner going to win the Heisman from the bench…?” The crowd broke-up. Pete hemmed and hawed, “Well, we’re all about competition…” And Tim said, “You said he’s the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, how’s he going to win the Heisman from the bench…?” Pete was laughing as he yelled out, “Next question!!”
It was a fun night. Pete and Tim Floyd have a great rapport. The funny part was that out of 10 questions at the end of the night, 7 or so went to Tim Floyd. He did get 3 questions in a row at one time and Tim said, “Thank you, Pasadena, that’s a new record, 3 questions in a row to the basketball coach.”
USC is lucky to have two of the best coaches in the country. We as fans are lucky, and we should enjoy this run as long as we can.