Like him or not, Lane Kiffin, all of 34 years old, is back at the scene of his prime.
USC opens spring practice Tuesday, its first with Kiffin as head coach. As a six-year assistant, Kiffin helped USC roll to the best of times, including a victory over Oklahoma in the 2004 Bowl Championship Series title game.
"This is a unique place," says Kiffin, who has a 12-21 record as coach.
He's happy to be out of the Knoxville fishbowl, where it was impossible to make a trip to the market or dine at a restaurant. Demands for autographs and photos would keep him occupied for hours.
When the announcement came that he was leaving, all hell broke loose. His wife Layla's phone number was painted on "The Rock," the large boulder on the Tennessee campus. Her phone rang nonstop for two days.
"When I saw some flashlights in windows as I was packing our bags, I knew it was time to go," Layla says.
Now he can begin a normal life — at least until the Trojans lose a game.
There are challenges and changes. The linebacker corps remain problematic, and the secondary will have four new starters. As for practice, Pete Carroll's open-door policy for fans wanting to watch is no more — at least for now.
Thanks to Image of Sport.