Would he have succeeded as quickly in flashy L.A. as he has up here in Seattle? “That’s a fascinating alternate reality,” says ESPN college football analyst Rod Gilmore.
Chris Petersen said he has never thought about it once.
Not for a millisecond on a 73-degree day. Not for a nanosecond between practices or film study.
Remember, it was just three years ago that the Huskies coach interviewed with USC athletic director Pat Haden for the Trojans’ head-coaching job. And while it was clear to both parties that the fit wasn’t right, it makes you wonder how the Pac-12 landscape might have changed had Coach Pete ventured to Los Angeles.
Have you ever let your mind wander? Petersen was asked Thursday.
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“Never,” he said.
Fair enough. But what if we did? In an alternate reality, what it would look like if Petersen was at the helm of the cardinal and gold instead of the purple and gold?
“That’s a fascinating alternate reality,” said ESPN college football analyst Rod Gilmore. “He (Petersen) could coach anywhere and win. He’s proven that.”
Would he have done so as quickly as he has up here in Seattle, though?
Gilmore has known Petersen for years and said right away that L.A. probably wouldn’t have been his ideal home. If the man finds the Seattle media occasionally burdensome, he would have found the Los Angeles media overwhelming.
Plus, it’s hard to picture Petersen hobnobbing with the likes of Snoop Dogg or Will Ferrell after practices the way Pete Carroll did. When you think of the more accomplished Los Angeles coaches over the past 30 years or so — Carroll, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, etc. — there was a certain vibe they gave that Petersen doesn’t.
What Petersen does give, however, is victories to whatever team he happens to be coaching. And he does so by rolling up his sleeves and blocking out the noise no matter how high the decibel level.
So even if he’d regretted signing up for the tinseltown lifestyle, you’d still have to think he would have elevated the Trojans the way he did the Broncos and Huskies, right?
“USC would be a national powerhouse right now, no doubt about it,” said Pac-12 Network college football analyst Yogi Roth, a former assistant coach under Carroll at Southern Cal. “Chris Petersen is a top-five college coach, and probably a top-10 coach in all of football.”
Gilmore and Roth both agree that Petersen would have had success with the Trojans, but their perspectives differ in regards to how much frustration he’d face during the process.
Gilmore wondered if the “egalitarian” culture Petersen has created at Washington (9-0, 6-0 in the Pac-12) might take a little longer to sell USC players on. Roth didn’t wonder that.
Yogi said one of the biggest misnomers about Los Angeles and USC is that it’s all kids who are just out for themselves. Like players for any other prestigious programs, they want to be coached up so that they can compete at the highest level.
So maybe it wasn’t a question of whether Petersen could have gotten the top-tier talent to buy in. It’s what he could have done with the top-tier talent if he got his hands on it.
“I think it would have been fun to see what Petersen could have done at a USC or Texas or LSU, when he’d have all these kids in his backyard,” Roth said.
Then again, it’s been plenty of fun up here in Seattle, too.
Had Petersen ended up at USC, Steve Sarkisian likely would have remained at UW, and … that might not have ended so well. Instead, he came to Washington, and the Huskies’ resurgence is nearly complete.
Moreover, The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the school is negotiating a potential 10-year extension. Crazy.
It wasn’t long ago that being in the Pac-12 title discussion for a decade seemed like a true alternate reality for Washington’s football program. Now it appears to be as real it gets.