Coach McKay's Corner - 7.30.01
Some interesting comments from John Robinson from when he coached under, and later replaced, Coach McKay:
"I was an assistant up in Eugene for twelve years. In 1972 our program was staggering badly and I was anxious to move. It was obviously a pivotal point in my coaching career when McKay, who had been an Oregon assistant when I was a player, hired me to join his staff. I couldn't have picked a better year to become a Trojan.
I walked into maybe one of the best football teams of all time in 1972. The players were highly motivated because they had been unsuccessful in 1970 & 1971, 6-4-1 both years. That team became unified and played with great enthusiasm - Mike Rae, Anthony Davis, Sam Cunningham, Lynn Swann, Charles Young, They were never pressed all season.
After three years as an assistant to McKay - I felt I learned more from him than any man - I moved to the Oakland Raiders to coach under my boyhood friend, John Madden. I loved it there, partly because the Raiders worked very hard and had a lot of those belief systems that USC has
There were concerns in some quarters about me following a legend, McKay. but USC still had the belief system, the attitude. I think a good definition of tradition is an organization that's more important than the individuals in it. The organization outlasts the individuals. John McKay left me fine players and a winning tradition when he went off to the National Football League.
Part of the tradition was the love of big games. Coach McKay had a great love for them and was always at his best for them. The feeling filtered down to the assistants and the players. There was not a lot of talk. There was almost a quiet on our practice field and a gleam in everyone's eye. I never saw us worried. I've never worried going into a big game with a USC football team.
People choose this University because USC is a winner - and we recruit that way. We don't get many insecure players. We tell them, "You have a chance to belong to a school, to a football team, that is second to none." When you talk to a young man about going to USC, you're dealing with one of his dreams, one of his fantasies. It's an incredible opportunity for him.
The image of USC is that it has all the talent. Mike Garretts and Ricky Bells designed by the School of Engineering and mass produced by the School of Medicine. I expected all the players to be as tall as Ron Yary and Gary Jeter. But when I got here, I was more impressed with the players attitude and competitiveness than with their talent or size. The most dramatic difference I saw between the men at USC and the ones I had dealt with was that competitiveness, that concentration or focus on what they wanted to do, which was win. That's the feeling that maintains traditions at successful places: an attitude that runs through the coach and player, runs through the alum, runs through the fan. It's a belief system that comes on you, and you become a part of it.
Of course, USC works hard to recruit great athletes. But just assemble talent without the belief system and your program will crumble. I felt right away that we were going to win, no matter what. The feeling in the air was, "Find out what we have to do, then get going and do it."
All above from: Conquest: A Cavalcade of USC Football by John Robinson & Joe Jares (1981)
Next week back to more about how John McKay first became USC Head Football Coach.
RIP Coach McKay.
McKay's Corner 7/30
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