Lane Kiffin was in a lot of ways a wonder kid. He rose to be an NFL head coach faster than anyone, then went to Tennessee, before bolting for USC. He was confident and excited and he rubbed some people the wrong way. He worked hard and jumped at opportunities and had an attractive wife, he made millions. The son of one of the greatest defensive coordinators ever in the sport, many people thought it was handed to him.
I am a Lane Kiffin fan. For many reason but one of the most impressive things about this guy is his willingness to learn. Too many coaches are just set in their ways and I believe it hurts the players and sports. I also believe, if USC had stuck with him, he would have gotten things going.
1. Be a team guy.
2. Be a good listener.
3. Take corrective criticism.
4. Discussion is good. Arguing is a waste of time. Discussion helps the team improve. Arguing exists only to prove who is right.
5. Be totally organized in the meeting room. “If the players show up and I don’t have the film ready, that tells them that I don’t respect them and don’t respect their time.
6. Don’t waste time on the field.
7. Be on the details. Stress the little things.
8. Be accountable to your fellow position coaches.
9. If your head coach gets on a player and you hadn’t explained it to him, take up for your player. He’ll respect you for it. Kiffin was big on this, and all player-related issues. For example, if a wide receiver does not make the proper sight adjustment and the head coach and coordinator jump on him for it, his wide receiver coach may be tempted to join them in hopes of looking good in front of the head coach. Terrible idea. “You just lost him for the day,” Kiffin said. Instead, “say, ‘that’s my fault, coach, we’ll haven’t been over that yet but we will after practice’,” said Kiffin.
10. Stay positive. It can be a long season, so stay upbeat.
11. Don’t get in their face. Be demanding, but in the right way. Kiffin said he used to mother(blank) players after mistakes, but doesn’t anymore. “He didn’t want to drop that pass, he wasn’t trying to drop that pass, so why would I (blank) him for it?”
12. Be respectful to the down-the-line players. Carroll taught him this one by always playing catch with a reserve players during breaks in practice. When he and Steve Sarkisian asked why, Carroll told them small acts like that can swing the whole locker room in the coaching staff’s favor. The starters buy in by default since they’re the ones that suck up all the playing time, but winning the down the line players over pushes the whole team forward.
13. Do not put players on the board to draw up plays. The ones that aren’t good at it, Kiffin said, know they aren’t good at it and, when they inevitably draw up 10 players instead of 11, get humiliated by the rest of the room.
14. Be honest with the players. Don’t BS them. “Don’t build a player up into something he’s not.”
15. Never tell a player he’s going to play and then not play him. What happens here is two-fold, Kiffin said. If you tell a safety he’ll play in the third series, then fall behind 14-0 and fail to play him, A) that player knows you don’t really trust him and B) he’s probably told his parents he’s going to play, and now you’ve got an issue on your hands with him.
16. Take it one year at a time. Sign on and don’t look back. Whether you’re at a place you like or a place you don’t, make the best out of it and learn something from it.
17. Have a passion for coaching. Don’t punch a clock. Carroll taught him this one. He created an atmosphere of “want to” versus “have to”; players and coaches were excited to show up for work at six in the morning. You’re going to be there anyway, so why not make it fun?
The reinvention of Lane Kiffin