By Christian Caple The News Tribune
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — There is nothing for Steve Sarkisian to regret about being the first-year coach at USC.
But Sarkisian, who coached the last five years at Washington, said on Wednesday at Pac-12 media day that there is one part of his departure from UW that he wishes he’d handled differently.
On Monday, Dec. 2, the day Sarkisian officially left his position with the Huskies to become coach at USC, he conducted his weekly Monday morning interview with host Mitch Levy on Sports Radio KJR 950 AM.
By then, rumors had circulated that Sarkisian had interviewed for USC’s vacant coaching job. Sarkisian, somewhat famously now, told Levy he hadn’t formally interviewed, and downplayed the idea that he was on his way out of town.
A few hours later, he was on his way out of town.
On Wednesday, he conceded that might not have been the best way to handle it.
“Honestly, in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have done that interview that morning, but I had committed to the interview,” Sarkisian said. “And I did the interview, there was nothing done, I hadn’t accepted the job at USC yet. Hindsight’s 20/20 in those moments. I probably should have stayed out of interviews and stayed away from cameras. But I did it. I tried to handle it to the best of my ability.
“So looking back, probably the biggest mistake was just going on-air. And Mitch did his job. I’m not upset with Mitch at all. I have a great deal of respect for Mitch. He did his job. I tried to answer the questions as best I could. Unfortunately it didn’t come out the best way I would have liked, but that’s life. You try to keep moving forward.”
As for Washington and its hire of first-year coach Chris Petersen — who is scheduled to meet here with media on Thursday along with offensive lineman Ben Riva and linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha — Sarkisian was complimentary.
“I’m happy for the University of Washington. I’m happy for those players. I think Coach Petersen is a very good football coach,” Sarkisian said. “I have a great deal of respect for him. Generally when you’re a coach and in opposition, you don’t really pull for different teams. You just kind of watch games and you get a feel. I can honestly say I’m going to be rooting for those guys this fall. We obviously don’t play them. They’re in a different division. I want those kids to have a great experience. We put a lot of time and effort into that program over the last five years and I want success for those kids. I was extremely happy for them that they won their bowl game and I’m hopeful they can go out and have a championship season this fall.”
Asked if he’s comfortable with the way he left UW, Sarkisian said he wished he’d been able to break the news to Huskies players earlier that day, but that otherwise, he felt he did all he could.
“I don’t know if you guys have ever had girlfriends, but when you break up with your girlfriend it’s never easy,” Sarkisian said. “It’s always hard and you do it the best way you know how, and you just try to be up-front and honest.”
USC’s offensive player representative, quarterback Cody Kessler, feels as if he’s come full circle in a sense with Sarkisian.
Kessler said he was set to commit to UW out of high school on the exact day that USC offered him a scholarship. Now he’s playing for Sarkisian, anyway.
“It was cool just because of the relationship we established before that,” Kessler said. “When I first saw him (at USC) we kind of laughed, like ‘hey, I finally got you.’”
Oregon picked as champs
Unsurprisingly, the Oregon Ducks were the overwhelming pick by Pac-12 media to win both the North division title and the conference championship game.
The Huskies were picked to finish third in the North, and WSU was picked fifth. UCLA was picked as the Pac-12 South champion, with USC coming in second.
“I think the overall skill level of this conference is way better than it’s ever been, and the trench play is better than it’s ever been,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “That kind of used to be one of the things people said about our league and a couple of the Western leagues where it’s past happy and finesse and that kind of stuff. And I think our rushing numbers can speak to that in a different way.”
Griffey impressing at Arizona
Arizona’s roster features a name familiar to Seattle sports fans — Trey Griffey, a third-year sophomore receiver, is the son of former Seattle Mariners slugger Ken Griffey Jr.
And he should be a factor in the Wildcats’ loaded receiving corps after catching 14 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns — both of them in Arizona’s bowl game against Boston College — in 2013.
“He needed the redshirt year to get bigger and stronger and learn what we were doing,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He started off last year mostly (on) special teams but by the end of the year, he was a guy that could play consistently on the outside. He’s a great worker. Growing up the way he did, some people say maybe he’s entitled or whatever. There’s no sense of entitlement whatsoever with Trey Griffey. His parents raised him right and he’s a great young man, and he’s got three good years left for us to play.”