Lane Kiffin: Firing was 'very difficult'

Updated: October 12, 2013, 1:01 PM ET
By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

Former USC coach Lane Kiffin, who was abruptly fired last month, conceded on ESPN's "College GameDay" show Saturday morning that he has made mistakes at each of his previous coaching stops, and that he understood athletic director Pat Haden had a difficult decision to make.

In an interview with ESPN's Chris Fowler, Kiffin said his firing was "very difficult," and that it's been a "very hard two weeks." They were Kiffin's first public comments since he was fired.

When asked about his 4-7 record over his last 11 games, Kiffin said it was a fair question.

"Obviously I'm to blame being the head coach," he said. "There are a lot of things I should've done better. At the same time, I'm very proud of our time there. If you look at what sanctions do to major programs like an Alabama, to be 28-15, there's some good stuff in there, and there are some great kids that are still playing really hard.

"To see the way they played the other night was awesome. I was so proud of those kids and that coaching staff. For Coach O [interim coach Ed Orgeron] to get that win like that, it was really cool to see."

Months after Kiffin was hired at USC, the NCAA levied heavy sanctions on the program that included the loss of 30 scholarships and two bowl trips as punishment for the Reggie Bush extra-benefits case.

Haden fired Kiffin on Sept. 29 at the Trojans' private airport terminal in Los Angeles when the team plane returned from a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. Kiffin's overall record in four years at USC was 28-15.

"Pat has a very hard job, and I understand an athletic director's job, being around the sport so long," Kiffin said. "Even though he may see what's going on on the inside and how hard it was to deal with the sanctions and our reduced roster, at the same time he has a lot of people to answer to. I appreciate Pat's support over three and half or four years there."

USC was ranked No. 24 this preseason but dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 by Week 3.

"It was very difficult," Kiffin said. "I have great passion for USC, for those players, for those coaches, and it was a difficult situation because you put so much into those kids, and to have that taken away, it was very hard."

Kiffin, 38, has been mired by controversy in each of his past three coaching jobs. He was fired as head coach of the Oakland Raiders after just 20 games, and he left Tennessee after just one 7-6 season to become head coach at USC, a position he once called his "dream job."

When asked why drama and turmoil often surround him, Kiffin attributed it to his mistakes.

"I think you're always trying to figure yourself out and mistakes that you've made," he said. "There are different things I've done that I wouldn't do again that kept following me. That's the price that you pay when you make mistakes early on."

"Any experience you have, there are good parts of it and bad parts, and you have to learn from the bad parts and the mistakes that you've made," he said. "I've made a bunch of them, so you learn from those at a young age still and you grow from there and you get stronger in your next job."

Kiffin said he is not seriously considering coaching at a lower level, but didn't say specifically what his future plans are.

"Obviously I love coaching," he said. "It's what I've done my whole life. It's been very unusual these last two weeks for me."

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