Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian and Trojans coach Lane Kiffin spent five years together as assistant coaches at USC.
Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin still talk regularly.
Sometimes what they discuss are topics only another head coach could really comprehend.
“Different thoughts, different ideas, different frustrations that maybe you don’t want everyone else to see, but you can bounce it off him and he understands,” said Sarkisian, Washington’s coach.
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This week they might talk about the hype surrounding the first meeting of the former boy wonder USC assistant coaches. Sarkisian and Kiffin, now the coach at USC, spent five years together as assistants for the Trojans.
Or how none of that will matter when they meet at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum. The game is vital to Washington’s hope of reviving its season, and to USC’s hope of making the most of a year when it is banned from the postseason.
“It really doesn’t mean anything,” Kiffin told reporters in Los Angeles on Sunday. “This game isn’t about myself or him. This has nothing to do with me or him. We want to do better than we did in our first game at the Coliseum (against Virginia).”
Said Sarkisian at his weekly news conference Monday: “Fortunately for everybody involved, Lane and I aren’t going to be blocking or tackling or running or throwing or catching Saturday. So we’re all OK there. These are both jobs we thought were special ones, especially in the Pac-10. It’s a unique experience, this early in our careers, to be facing each other in such a pivotal ballgame in the Pac-10 race.”
It’s the kind of thing they talked about back in their days as USC assistants, when they used to rank head coaching jobs around the country, each hoping one day to lead his own program.
They were each offensive assistants from 2001 through 2003 before Sarkisian left for a year to work with the Raiders in the NFL. Kiffin was offensive coordinator and Sarkisian quarterbacks coach in 2005 and 2006 before Kiffin left to become head coach with the Raiders — but only after Sarkisian turned the job down.
Sarkisian remembered last year that none of that ever had an impact on their relationship.
“I didn’t worry about it and I don’t think he worried about me,” Sarkisian said. “It was what was best for his career and what was best for mine. What I appreciate about Lane and myself is we are grown enough men to make our own decisions and move on and keep our relationship strong.”
For Sarkisian, the game also marks his first return to USC with the Huskies.
Sarkisian, though, downplayed that, noting that he returns to the L.A. area often to recruit and visit friends and family. He grew up in Torrance, south of Los Angeles.
“I’ve been going to L.A. quite a bit since I’ve left, for recruiting and different things,” he said. “So I don’t think I’ll be that enamored seeing what’s changed and whatnot.”
For USC, the game is a chance to avenge a 16-13 loss to the Huskies in Seattle last year.
One Trojan who spoke openly about it is defensive end Wes Horton, who told the Los Angeles Times, “I just want to get back at them so bad. It was an embarrassing loss last year. It was a game that we should have won.”
Huskies players mostly shrugged off the comments Monday.
“Last year was last year,” said linebacker Cort Dennison. “We’ve got to worry about this year. They are undefeated and we are 1-2, so we’ve just got to worry about doing all we can to win and getting at them as fast as we possibly can. We can’t wait to get hit. We have to hit them first.
“I’m sure they are going to have a chip on their shoulder from what happened last year but that doesn’t affect us in any way.”
• The Huskies’ game Oct. 9 against Arizona State will kick off at 7 p.m. at Husky Stadium and will be televised by FSN.
• Sarkisian said the team is healthy after the bye with running back Johri Fogerson (hip flexor) the only player questionable for this week other than those already out for the season.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org