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Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Players respond to Carroll's departure

By Pedro Moura

Apparently, the "business decision" explanation former USC coach Pete Carroll gave at his Monday press conference resonated with players.

They took it hard, but they took it well.

Their head coach, the guy who recruited them to become Trojans, is gone.

For real this time.

“At first, I didn’t believe it, because it happens every year,” Devon Kennard said. “I was like ‘whatever.' And then it was on all day, and the next day, and the next day, and I was like ‘Alright, we might be in trouble now.’”

“Well, what can you do?" linebacker Kevin Greene said after Carroll's press conference Monday. "Sometimes life throws you a curveball and you don’t get to hear the type of things that you want to hear, but you just have to live with it. I didn’t think this was gonna happen, but it has, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

I asked Greene if he felt betrayed by the coaching staff.

No, he said. He'd heard stories of NBA players who were traded and heard about it on Sportscenter.

“That’s even worse,” he said.

Said middle linebacker Chris Galippo: “As much as people pour their passion into the games and play as they live their lives, at the end of the day, it’s his job. He’s getting paid to do it and he's gotta be a little selfish sometimes."

Galippo, always the mature one, has taken on a leadership role in the fracas following Carroll's departure. But some of his temmates haven't quite gotten over the whole ordeal yet.

“The bulk of the guys are ready to move forward with whoever comes in," Brice Butler said. "But some guys are still in that shock-and-awe state."

What makes it so tough, his ex-players say, is that Carroll was so distinct, so one-of-a-kind, so . . . USC.

“He had a unique sense of style,” fullback D.J. Shoemate said. “An image, a persona, he was so charismatic. Very genuine, very competitive. I highly appreciate all that.”

And so closely identified with USC, as well. Carroll told players while recruiting them he planned to stay a Trojan forever.

And they believed him.

"Back then, I didn't know him as well as I do know," Galippo said, recalling his recruitment, then moving on to the present. "But if you asked me a month ago if Coach Carroll was gonna leave I would've sworn that he would stay."

With Carroll go former quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. More departures from the coaching staff could follow.

Greene, who redshirted this season and developed a close relationship with Norton through the recruitment process and over the season, also talked extensively about losing his position coach to the NFL. Norton will work in the same capacity for the Seahawks.

“You’re with your position coach even more than you’re with your head coach, and you have a strong amount of respect for them," Greene said.
"And then you find that they’re leaving and you’re like, ‘Now what do I do?’ I know what I’m doing – which is staying – but it’s a lot to take.”

Many players said the coaching change was more motivation than ever to train hard for the time being. With a new coach, they hope, will come a new beginning.

And an improvement on last season's 9-4 finish.

“Hey, the only way to go from here,” Shoemate said, “is up.”