"Matt Leinart took the offensive linemen all down to Magic Mountain for the day and paid for everything. That kind of thing is why I think Matt Leinart is special and he's going to be more special, Carson used to do that stuff and now Matt's doing that, it gives you more of a bond with those offensive linemen. It's a "you take care of me, I'll take care of you" type of thing."
There is a lot of talk about Mike Williams possibily coming back. Do you know what kind of shape he's in or what kind of training he's been doing?
"I'm not really sure of what he's been doing but what he had been doing was getting ready for the combine and you train differently for that. He's a great athlete though and it wouldn't take him any time at all to get in football playing condition. I speak for myself when I say I would welcome him back because he's a tremendous young man. I like being around Michael and I think he's a special kid. We never had a bad day with him in here.
What we can do is still make him a better athlete than he is and that comes with time. I know things didn't work out the way he planned but I hope he comes back and I for one would welcome him back without a hitch in step. He did what he was told was right and I have no animosity against that. If somebody told me I could go out and make several million dollars by doing something that was within my field of training I think I would do it because there aren't too many opportunities like that. If you offered the adults out there a chance to make millions of dollars doing basically the same thing they're doing now would that same person stay true blue to their company? If somebody says no to that I guess I salute them because I don't know if I could do it. I love USC and I hope to be here as long as they have me but if someone is offering me $10 million it's going to be hard to turn down because of the security.
It's not a Cardinal and Gold thing. Mike made a choice and if people know who Mike Williams is and what Mike has fought through in his life to be the fine young man that he is, if they question his choice they need to check their hole card on that one because I don't blame Mike at all. I just hope he has a chance to come back. I think he will add to this team an element that will make us better, if he doesn't come back I think we're fine with what we have but it's like playing five card stud and we get a sixth card. We've got a bunch of aces in our hand right now but they're going to throw another ace in the deck. I watch that poker on TV and if one of those guys had six aces they would take that bet and say "hell yeah, I'm gonna win".
You lost two of your coaches this year when Aaron and Andrea Ausmus went to Idaho.
"There was a situation where Aaron Ausmus had an opportunity to go be a head strength coach for the Idaho Vandals. People rip on Mike but Aaron headed to Idaho and I don't think Nick Holt was holding out an offer to him for $10 million. It was a business decision where a young guy had a chance to be a head coach at a Division 1 school because he worked his butt off. He gave us everything he had, and Andrea also, she came down here after working as Coach Carroll's personal assistant and she added to our program. She helped the women's golf team win a national title. I'll miss them both because they're people I've known for a long time. I've known Aaron since 1998 when I got to Tennessee and he was a thrower there. Since that time I've either trained him or he worked under me. I'm happy for him now and for him to have the opportunity to work for Nick Holt is a great situation.
To replace Andrea I've brought in Leslie Cordova and she was an assistant at Notre Dame. I first came in contact with her at Loyola Marymount when Brian Luft sent her over her to meet me and take a look at our program. She headed off to Notre Dame so I kept her number in my file because I was really impressed with her and when I had an opportunity to bring her back I made the call. I also had the chance to bring in Jim Jacobson and he was the head strength coach at Portland State. We're bringing in a combination of people who have been in big programs and people who have run programs. It's like with Coach Carroll's staff, there's a great mix of old coaches, I hate saying old coaches, let's say knowledgeable coaches, we've got some grass under our feet now but he's also brought in a good mix of young people who bring in new ideas and new ways. I think that's a great way to do it."
Are there any new developments with your program this year?
"Yes and no. We've found that we are doing things that are making our kids better athletes and we've been doing things for the last several years. What we've done now is just refine some of the movements. I believe you always need to be developing and changing, I don't think you say "hey, we won with this so let's stay on it". I think when that happens people start passing you by. I think you want to stay on the edge. I've been in coaching for over 20 years and you learn early on that there are people who ride in the bus and just go wherever somebody takes them and then there are the people who drive the bus. I've always attempted to be out in front and to innovate and bring new ideas of training in. We've got a pretty good foundation now with our training but we'll make some minor changes, you don't want to make a lot of big changes because then you don't know what was the effect and what was the cause for the change. You want to change a little bit here, a little bit there.
We made some changes in our speed work, our conditioning work and our plyometric work. We found over the spring when we changed some things that our kids looked better in the spring than they did in the fall with their footwork so we kept those drills and enhanced a couple other things. With our conditioning we're doing much more change of direction conditioning rather than straight ahead conditioning because the game is 98% change of direction. To stay on the edge we need to make change of direction conditioning a major part of our training."
Anything in the near future, technology or machinery, that has you excited right now?
"We just purchased, with the help of a gentleman named Joe Rich who is always there when we need him, what is called a belt squat. Athletes that are coming off of injuries sometimes cannot squat with a regular back squat so this allows us to put a belt on the athlete and the weight is such that it works the hips and legs without putting stress on the back. Athletes who need the strength that squat brings about are able to do it, we've got some athletes with ankle problems that don't have great flexibility in their ankles so they can't squat right. If they can't squat right it may throw them off and cause other problems so we're able to put them on this and work the athlete as good as we could if they were doing regular squats. We also have some new treadmills, they're called Woodway treadmills, and they are the best on the market because they allow us to keep up the conditioning of an athlete who is rehabbing from injury. Those are the two main new additions that we have."
What are you reading these days?
"I'm reading a book about Hannibal crossing the Alps with the elephants and everything. I'm also reading The Emperor's Handbook by Marcus Aurelius. Both of those books have to do with the philosophy of working with other people. Basically I'm just a great thief of ideas. These two books are about guys who formulated how to work with groups and, with Hannibal, how to overcome what seemed to be impossible. It was only the Swiss Alps that he had to deal with but he was able to put a little pressure on the Roman Empire and to that point nobody had been able to do that. You read about these guys and find out how they got people to respond, I think there are a lot of ways to stimulate thought and training so you have to use every avenue possible with these kids. There is an old saying "those who forget their history are destined to repeat it" so here we are working with kids today in 2004 and we're looking to learn from the good parts of history. I think reading books like this helps keep me well rounded and able to pass on better ideas to the kids."
How important is it for the coaches to get away to Palm Springs this weekend for their annual retreat?
"I think when people see the coaches doing their thing on Saturday's they forget that this is a job that doesn't afford much time off. I used to be a pretty good golfer but the last time I golfed was the last time we went out to the desert. My game is not what it was because of the time and effort that you have to put into this, not just from August through January but every day. People talk about the off-season but there is no down time in the weight room. When football takes some time off in January we have basketball that is just beginning the heart of their season. There's always somebody working. Right now women's water polo just finished up with a national championship and we're still working with track as they get ready for the NCAA's. We're doing a lot with swimming right now as they get ready for the Olympics. This time in Palm Springs is nice to take a break because it gives us a chance to sit down, look at each other and ask "are we ready to go again?" The answer is definitely yes because everybody is chomping at the bit ready to go. It's really hard on the coaches right now because they cannot have contact with the athletes so it's like Christmas when you're upstairs in your bed and you know you have presents waiting for you downstairs. You want to get down there and play with all the toys."
What is your favorite part about being involved with a college program when things are clicking?
"I love building programs and when you have the new kids coming in it gives you a new chance to build. Every day is my favorite day because it gives me a chance to work with these kids, to train them and get them to give full effort. After the workout when they come up to me and say "you got me today Coach" then I know I'm doing my part to keep us where we need to be."