- Greg Katz, Columnist, WeAreSC.com
LOS ANGELES -- They say that the best baseball trades are the ones that are never made, and if you took a poll of current USC Trojans players on whether they would like to trade interim coach Ed Orgeron for another coach, right now the answer would be a resounding “No.”
Then again, if Orgeron's current momentum continues the rest of the season, the question becomes whether USC athletic director Pat Haden is willing to make that trade.
It's possible that the next Trojans coach will be a big-time name, and it might take a person of that stature to turn USC players' heads to soften the blow of perhaps losing a coach they love and respect.
Consider if the Trojans converted two field goals and won the game at Notre Dame, it would have propelled Orgeron’s current candidacy for the permanent USC coaching position into more serious discussion than it is today.
Standing on the victorious Trojans sideline at Oregon State’s Reser Stadium during and after the Trojans upset the Beavers, 31-14, one could only marvel at how unified these Trojans are as opposed to a month ago. Unquestionably, Haden knows that Orgeron is the main man responsible for the turnaround.
Also, make no mistake about it, Haden understands the current Trojans roster not only has proven it will lay it all out on the line for Orgeron but look to him as a father figure.
Some Trojans players, however, are also realistic about their interim coach’s future.
When asked about Orgeron in the middle of a wild celebration on the Reser Stadium artificial turf on Friday night, strong safety Dion Bailey put things into stone-cold analysis.
“If Coach O isn’t the head coach here, he will be a head coach somewhere else,” Bailey said. “But we love Coach O.”
Bailey’s comment makes one take a step back and pause.
Just how uncomfortable might it sound to the Trojans family to hear a press conference in December welcoming Orgeron as the new coach at another institution, especially if he guides the Men of Troy into a respectable bowl game?
Currently the thought of Orgeron at any place other than USC leaves many Trojans fans in a state of distress.
As attractive as Orgeron is becoming as a Trojans coaching candidate, Haden will do the right thing and let the season play out -- and he should. There is no telling what will happen the rest of the way, but if things play out the way fans hope, Haden will have one huge decision to make. Or will he?
Maybe no matter what Orgeron does short of going to the Rose Bowl, Haden wants a complete break from the previous coaching regime and his own man, which includes a coach and personality that knocks the nation on its collective ears. Certainly someone with the prestige of Jon Gruden would fit that design.
Haden, the starting quarterback on the Trojans' 1974 national championship team, is currently surveying the big fish out there in the vast coaching ocean. Then he’ll weigh the pros and cons of each legitimate candidate and take his time. He might look at Orgeron's body of work and see how the other "all-star" candidates compare.
Almost like playing the “magic number” game in a baseball pennant race, there is a rising tide of USC fans interested in trying to figure out what it might take for Orgeron to seal the deal in Haden’s eyes. Assuming the Trojans win at Cal and Colorado, does it really get down to performances against Stanford and UCLA?
With the Trojans playing the Cardinal and the Bruins in the Coliseum, and with USC fandom ready to roar and “fight on” for their beloved team, this might be Orgeron’s best shot of getting Haden’s attention.
If the gravely voiced coach from Louisiana sweeps Stanford and UCLA, is there a reason to look elsewhere or will Haden have already sealed the deal with a silent agreement with an unidentified suitor?
For the record, Orgeron has already said he would like to stay on with the Trojans one way or the other if the situation is right, but by the same token he also added he might pursue another college head coaching position.
Make no mistake about it, Orgeron definitely wants to be a permanent head coach again after being fired at Mississippi back in 2007, and he certainly is making a strong case he’d like a second chance wearing cardinal and gold.
The question: Does Haden feel the same way?
1dChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell