Today, I’ve got a non-snarky post about Tennessee and Lane Kiffin – no nicknames, just a few sincere questions.
I keep reading quotes like these –
From Andy Staples:
Without playing a down, Kiffin has made Tennessee the most talked-about program in the country. For a guy who must scour the country to populate a program to compete with the juggernauts at Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU, publicity is crucial.
And from Dennis Dodd:
“He’s playing you guys perfect,” Tennessee hoops coach Bruce Pearl said of Kiffin.
Pearl is the guy who advised Kiffin that it’s good to be hated. That means you’re doing something right in the SEC.
“My goal was to be the least popular coach in the SEC in a year,” Pearl said. “He managed to do it in a week.”
– and I have to confess that I feel like I’m missing something here. What is it about the Tennessee program that requires its head coach to behave in the way that Kiffin has in order to succeed? Or is this simply an exercise in after the fact justification?
I mean, is this really what Mike Hamilton had in mind when he made the hire?
… But Kiffin understands he’s essentially in the entertainment business. Like the WWE wrestler who realizes he’ll make a bigger splash as a heel than as a babyface, Kiffin considers his words and their consequences to be occupational hazards.
“Do I love everything that I had to do to get us to this point? No. I don’t,” he said. “But my job is not to love everything that I do. My job is to do the best thing for our university and the best thing for our people.”
If Kiffin’s telling the truth there – and who knows at this point, given the “gas pumping” and Pahokee fiascoes – that comes across as incredibly cynical. If he wins (games, not recruiting rankings), no doubt Vol fans will be thrilled, but what will they be left with if he doesn’t grab a few titles?
It’s not just this scorched earth approach to achieving notoriety, but also that whole thing about promoting the program as an NFL pipeline that strikes me as questionable. It all seems calculated to devalue a justifiably proud program’s tradition.
I know, I know, I’m coming at this from the perspective of an outsider who’s a fan of a rival program, so my opinion doesn’t mean much. But there’s one thing I keep wondering. If this is such a great approach to resurrecting a national powerhouse, how come the first guy to think of it is a 33-year old whose prior stop as a head coach was a miserable failure?