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Haden's choice bigger than Orgeron

LOS ANGELES -- A month ago, Ed Orgeron was simply a caretaker, a likeable, gravel-voiced Cajun superintendent holding the dust bin and broom after Lane Kiffin's mess. Nobody took him seriously as a candidate to be the next USC head football coach.

A day ago, everyone seemed certain he was the next great Trojan program builder. Just like that, he was the next John McKay, the next Pete Carroll, or -- if you happen to be from the World War I generation -- the next Gus Henderson?

And now? While none of us other than athletic director Pat Haden really knows -- if Haden even knows -- it certainly appears Orgeron is closer to the position he was in on Halloween to the one he was in on Thanksgiving. As of now, his tenure as USC coach seems more like the sugar rush you get from gobbling down too many Tootsie Rolls and Sour Patch Kids than it does the bloated calm you get after powering down a plate of turkey and the 2,500 calories of carbs that go with it.

Not that there's anything wrong with a little dessert. Who wouldn't get swept up in the romance of those five consecutive victories, including the thriller over powerful Stanford, and the infectious energy and emotion Orgeron brings? His smile works a lot better in front of a TV camera than Kiffin's scowl does. Sentiment seemed to be building to the point that, had USC beaten its archrival Saturday night, Haden might have felt overwhelming pressure to detach the word "interim" from the term "head coach" in Orgeron's title.

But sometimes, sentiment is the last thing a leader like Haden needs to have in mind.

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