Lane Kiffin discusses how he's matured as head coach, credits Nick Saban for his development
This isn’t the same Lane Kiffin who was the head coach at Tennessee 10 years ago and at USC earlier this decade. Now 44, Kiffin has a lot more experience under his belt.
During his introductory press conference at Ole Miss on Monday, Kiffin was asked about how he’s matured since he coached at Tennessee in 2009 and at USC from 2010-13. He shared how his views about the head-coaching role have changed, while also citing Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who he coached under from 2014-16, as being a role model.
“When you go through obstacles, that sometimes seem like really bad things, there’s a book called ‘Obstacles’ by Ryan Halladay and he sent me that book and that book really put things in a different light to me,” Kiffin told the media. “You can have something like the firing at USC that you felt like is the end of the world when it happens, are you ever going to get a head coaching job again? You go through sanctions, all that stuff that you go through, and then I look at that differently. Had that not happened, I would have never worked for Nick Saban. That obstacle really helped me develop.
“I think going to work for Coach was great for X’s and O’s and all that stuff, but really how he manages the program from top to bottom. I mentioned it in [The Pavilion], I feel like I was a head coach before, going back to USC and really I was the offensive coordinator being the head coach and developing players, getting them to the NFL. Getting a lot of players drafted. Then I really changed and realized there is more to this, that’s not my calling. My calling wasn’t just to get guys drafted and get them a lot of money, it was to develop them off the field and have relationships with them and help them through things. I feel like there’s a lot different in player relationships this time around, and I’m not saying today, this is the last three years as a head coach.”
Kiffin experienced his share of struggles earlier in his coaching career. He went 7-6 in his lone season at Tennessee, then went 28-15 at USC, where he was fired after a 3-2 start to the 2013 season. That was also the year the Trojans dealt with NCAA sanctions that included being ineligible for the Pac-12 championship and bowl games.
But then, Kiffin had success in his three seasons at Alabama’s offensive coordinator, before going to Florida Atlantic, where he went 26-13 and led the Owls to two Conference USA championships in three seasons.
Kiffin will now try to turn around another program as he heads to Ole Miss, which went 11-13 the past two seasons under Matt Luke.