LOS ANGELES — In the beginning, it was him taking off his shirt. At the end, he was being dismissed after winning 10 of 25 games in three seasons as the head coach at Ole Miss.
During that time, and since then, he’s learned a lot.
“I didn’t take my shirt off today,” Ed Orgeron said last week shortly after going through his first practice as USC’s interim head coach.
But there’s more to growth than just a motivational tactic employed here or there. Motivation is a strength of Orgeron’s and with that he brings a ton of energy and enthusiasm.
Those are the building blocks for the next eight games that could result in the interim tag being removed from his title. The opportunity to once again lead a football team is one that appeared to be a distant wish for him.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever become a head coach again,” Orgeron said.
The USC interim coach hasn’t come out to his players and told them that he wants to be the program’s head coach in years to come, but they can sense it.
“He doesn’t really say it to the whole team but he definitely talks to the D-Line a lot because we’re more personal to him than most of the team,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “He tells us ‘This is a great opportunity for me. I’ve learned since Ole Miss.’
“The main thing he talks about is just make sure we have fun.”
Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carroll are two head coaches Orgeron worked for who he admires a great deal and he’s taking a lot from them to incorporate into his style. He learned, however, that he can’t be them. At Ole Miss, a lot of what Orgeron did was based upon what Carroll would do or had done at USC.
He’s thinking differently this time around.
“I have to coach with my style,” Orgeron said. “After my previous head coaching stint I said ‘You know what? If I get my chance again I have to do it the way I know how to do it. Whether it’s right, wrong, or indifferent.'”
There are still some Carroll traits. He wants the players to have fun. He wants them to be excited about playing the game of football. All things that were synonymous with USC during the Carroll Era.
Yet he’s also brought some things to the program that hadn’t been done before, like the Trojan Bowl – a practice held during last week’s bye in which the majority of the first and second teamers coached the third teamers and walk-ons in a full contact scrimmage. That was something that had been done under Johnson in his days as an assistant at Miami.
As the head man now at USC, he has every intention on taking advantage of this opportunity. That opportunity begins Thursday night when the Trojans host Arizona.
“This is my shot,” Orgeron said. “It’s our shot. It’s our shot as a team.”