Stand-up guy Pat Haden stands behind Lane Kiffin at USC

  • Pin It

And Haden disagrees. Haden is just as much a Trojan as all the other USC honks out there and just as unhappy when the school loses.

But he sees so much more in Kiffin.

If there were problems with Kiffin's student-athletes or claims of illegal recruiting, Haden might be joining the "Jack Del Rio" chants.

But beyond losing, what's the worst thing Kiffin has done at USC?

There's certainly a list of items troubling to those who want more maturity in a football coach. But name one distraction worth starting a search for a new coach.

Even in their totality, while maybe meriting a shake of the head, they just aren't that much.

Some folks always figure Kiffin is up to no good, the deflated footballs obviously his doing even though he says they were not.

No one has linked Kiffin to them, and just imagine how hard some have tried, and yet that's what ignited the talk that Kiffin had to win out or be fired.

Yet another miscalculation.

J.K. McKay's job is to closely monitor the football program, reporting to his buddy Haden, and both of them apparently are satisfied with what they are getting.

In the past maybe a decision coming from the athletic director's office might be written off as USC arrogance. Buf if there is one thing USC and UCLA fans might agree upon, it's their respect for Haden over the years.

And if he's throwing his good name behind Kiffin, isn't Kiffin worthy of a longer look?

Now it's up to Kiffin to make good on the confidence Haden has placed in him.

He's going to have to grow on the job, and win. And maybe just as important, he's going to have to buy more time to get beyond the entrenched perception everywhere that he's trouble ready to happen.

OK, so it might help if he looked more like a head coach rather than an offensive coordinator with his head buried in his game plan.

Too often he appeared cool, detached and lost in offensive thought Saturday against UCLA. Maybe just once he might consider talking to a defensive player if for appearances only.

It might not be the same for every coach. But he's going to have to win the perception game as well as most every other game to fight off the buzzards.

And although Kiffin has said he will never fire his father, Monte Kiffin now has to do the right thing for his son and step aside as overseer of USC's defense.

It's time to allow his kid to prove Haden correct in his assessment.

"I hope Lane and I are together for a long time,'' said Haden.

And speaking on behalf of my fellow Bruins fans, who undoubtedly will agree wholeheartedly with Page 2 for the first time, I hope Kiffin remains coaching at USC for a long time.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

  • Pin It

Local & National Video