Pete Carroll isn't looking back

Aug 6 2010 - 4:19pm

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(John Froschauer/The Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll calls out to the team during the opening day of training camp in Renton, Wash., in July.
(John Froschauer/The Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll calls out to the team during the opening day of training camp in Renton, Wash., in July.

RENTON, Wash. -- It's all so familiar. The thumping pop music. The crowds. The festival feel. And the relentlessly energetic Pete Carroll in the middle of it all, sprinting from drill to drill, wheeling his arms like a traffic cop, at one point even coaxing cheers from the roughly 2,000 Seattle Seahawks fans watching from "the berm," the man-made hill that lines one side of the team's lakefront practice fields.

Training camp is less than a week old, the University of Southern California sanctions are three galaxies away, and Carroll is in his element, already describing this NFL go-round as "awesome" and "just a blast."

In one corner of the practice fields, he has installed a scoreboard that reads "Always Compete," and over the doors inside headquarters are signs reading, "I'm in!"

That does nothing to change the unspoken message heard by people at USC, one that has echoed for the last seven months: "I'm out!"

But if anyone is waiting for some kind of mea culpa from Carroll, well, it isn't coming. He has unapologetically moved on -- all while not moving off the points he has repeated publicly since taking the job in January, and since the NCAA sanctions were levied in June.

As he has in other interviews, Carroll said he:

--Was unaware of the relationship between the parents of Reggie Bush and would-be sports marketer Lloyd Lake ("They say, 'How could you possibly not see it?' Because they didn't want us to. They didn't want us to know.").

--Was angry about the severity of the sanctions ("Protect the universities, protect the kids' experience, that's what this whole NCAA thing is supposed to be about. As opposed to sticking somebody's finger in the light socket and blowing them up. That's what happened. They are punitive rather than proactive.").

--Acknowledged the belief of many that he skipped out on USC just when -- and because -- things got tough. ("There's people that are mad at me for leaving. Well, I knew there was never going to be a good time.")

On the notion it wasn't so much the lure of the NFL, but the gathering storm clouds, that inspired him to leave:

"The sanctions came out five months after we left. I had no idea this would happen ... We never heard about this thing. We heard nothing from the athletic department. We heard nothing from the NCAA. So it was just kind of a dead issue for us."

On the NCAA findings:

"They thought that there were agents running up and down the sidelines, or people handing out checks or something like that. That's such a horrible depiction of what happened. That's not what happened at all. And they thought it was out of control? It wasn't out of control. There were no agents at our practices. If we ever saw anybody who asked the wrong kind of question, we threw them out on their ear immediately."

On whether he's at all uncomfortable returning to Southern California, something he did recently to promote his just-released book "Win Forever":

"I felt so comfortable, felt at home. Some guys were like, 'Why would you do that? Why would you expose yourself?' Because of how I feel about it ... I know what happened. I wouldn't have gone out if I thought something was amiss. I don't at all."

To Seahawks fans, the USC situation is a non-issue. That's obvious as busloads of them arrive at the team's picturesque headquarters to watch the afternoon practice. This is Washington Huskies country, and there's nary a Trojans hat or jersey in the crowd.

"I think a very small percentage of people here worry about what's going on at USC," said spectator Eric McIver of nearby Des Moines, Wash. "I don't think a lot of people care. They just want a good coach up here that will win."

There was a lot of skepticism when Carroll arrived, in large part because most of his success has come as a college coach. (He was 97-19 in nine seasons at USC; 33-31 as coach of the New England Patriots and New York Jets.) A lot of people thought he would be too wedded to his former USC players, many of whom have not panned out as pros. In fact there is a heavy Trojans influence to the Seahawks, including eight USC players on the camp roster, but Carroll also cut running back LenDale White and took Texas safety Earl Thomas over USC's Taylor Mays in the draft.

It's not as if Carroll has cut ties with Southern California. He's very involved with "A Better LA," his foundation aimed at ending violence and improving the quality of life in the inner city. His book profits go to the foundation.

"The hard part was making the decision to leave USC, and I loved USC," he said. "It had nothing to do with anything people would think. I loved being there, I loved winning, I loved representing the city, and the work that we were doing in the inner city, and all of the things that made it a special relationship.

"It was the time of my life. But my (competitive) nature has always done this, taken me this way."

His primary focus is now 1,100 miles to the north. The Seahawks abruptly fired Jim Mora after one 5-11 season and replaced him with Carroll, who has wasted no time taking advantage of the personnel control he has always sought.

"Fifty percent of the team has changed, and we've made more roster moves than anybody," he said. "We're playing young guys, doing exactly what we did at SC. That's thrilling to me, to take it to the league and to have that chance.

"I know we're going to win. I don't have any second thought. I'm not worried. I just don't know how far we can go how fast.

"I don't have any other thought in my mind."

With the energy and abandon he shows sprinting alongside his players from one drill to the next, Carroll has moved on.

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