On December 1st, I wrote a piece about Clay Helton, the newly appointed USC Head Football Coach, and how Pat Haden, USC Athletic Director, chose to retain the interim head coach. (See previous Blog post: “After Further Review…”)
Now less than 24 hours after USC’s embarrassing 41-22 loss to Stanford, it is reported by ESPN Staff Writer, Kyle Bonagura, that Helton has “fired defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, defensive line coach Chris Wilson, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and offensive line coach Bob Connelly. They will not remain with the program in the lead up to the Holiday Bowl against Wisconsin on Dec. 30.”(See Bonagura article)
Although this is devastating news for the fired coaches and their families, this was the right move for Helton and for USC Football.
I say this was the right move for Helton because he did not merely “clean house”. Instead, Helton did it the right way by making value judgments based on who and what was best for his program.
As Helton makes the program his, one of his top priorities is to build a coaching staff that he feels will help USC get back to a championship level. Therefore, Helton retained four of the coaches from former head coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff and fired the four previously mentioned coaches as well.
One can only speculate, but the coaches that Helton fired most likely were Sarkisian loyalists and/or had philosophical conflicts with Helton and/or X’s and O’s differences so therefore Helton needed to act quickly make the change. Communication, listening and decisiveness are key leadership qualities that coaches going through this sort of chaos must exhibit.
As Helton noted, “You get the opportunity to be the coach at USC one time, and I’m going to bring in the coaches that I feel can help us toward a championship.”
Helton added, “This was entirely my decision and one thing I appreciate about Mr. Haden is he’s given me the right to run this football team exactly with the vision that I see, and I really appreciate that as a head coach. This is my decision as we move forward.”
Haden’s support is crucial to Helton’s success. All any coach can ask for is the support of his/her athletic director and to have the ability to build their program in the manner in which they see fit.
Anything less than full support will surely lead to a compromised execution of the head coach’s vision.
With full support of their administration, head coaches have a greater chance of long-term success and can truly build a program where trust, family values and accountability are core values instead of deception, gossip and cliques.
If Haden and USC truly believe in Helton, this was the only way to move forward with the football program: Do it Helton’s way.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo