Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kiffin Bolts Vols...and Good Riddance

Nashville's latest sports radio talkathon is happening on weeknights on WNSR, 560-AM, 6-9 p.m., with up-and-coming nattering nabobs Jeff Thurn and Henry Nichols offering an alternative brand of gab and opinion. Two nights in and the young duo's chemistry and penchant for chatty wisecracking definitely sounds like a good idea. The twosome banter and take phone calls, and if that doesn't so far strike anyone as revolutionary, at least they seem willing to head for an anti-establishment tone.

Unlike Nashville's rank-and-file radio sports vets—no names please, Obsequious George (Ooops! That slipped!)—these guys actually seem to have a sense of humor. That certainly served them well as Thurn and Nichols chortled over Lane Kiffin's surprise exit from Tennessee to become USC's new head football coach. Thurn and Nichols fairly gushed, too, about Kiffin's prospects for success on the West Coast.

Dragging his daddy, defensive guru Monte, with him, along with veteran assistant coach and recruiter Ed Orgeron, Kiffin bails on Knoxville after one season filled with hoopla and high hopes but average results. He also comes off looking like a first-rate carpetbagger in this neck of the woods, all of 34 years old, spouting off like an immature newbie from the get-go, instead of keeping his mouth shut and his essentially untried ass quietly to the grindstone while attempting to build a program at his first major college head coaching job.

Funny, in my 10 years living in Nashville, I've never been a Vols fan. Usually, I root for Vandy for about 4 games then lose interest as their fortunes fade. But suddenly I feel like UT's been dealt a raw deal, and it's my hope that, instead of feeling all wounded, the school will look upon Kiffin's exit as an opportunity to find a coach who fits their lofty goals and who wants to hang around these here parts for a while, no matter what. And more power to the Vols if they do something bold during this stressful time, with big recruiting decisions nigh. They could even be excused if they do something controversial. (Mike Leach, anybody?)

As for Kiffin, I'm not buying his act just quite yet. Here's a guy with a 5-15 record in the pros with the Raiders, and a 7-6 record with the Vols in a single season. Yeah, he might be young and blonde and California-friendly, but this guy has yet to prove that he's a kick-ass head coach. He's noted as a recruiter, and, yes, that's a large part of college ball. But what Kiffin has yet to prove is if he's a leader and a shaper of disparate parts into a consistently winning team. The Kiffin-USC experience will be especially interesting to watch if the school is penalized for recent rumored program violations.

Fact is, Kiffin never looked like a keeper in Knoxville from the beginning anyway. So good riddance, and let's root for UT AD Mike Hamilton in his hurry-up search for a replacement.

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