FROM HOLLYWOOD — New USC coach and former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, sporting a tan he couldn’t have acquired in Seattle, spoke with reporters here at Pac-12 Media Day a little while ago and fielded a few questions about his departure from UW.
His biggest regret, he said, was giving a radio interview on Sports Radio KJR on the Monday morning he announced he was leaving for USC.
In that interview, Sarkisian denied interviewing for the USC job. Hours later, he was on his way to Los Angeles as the Trojans’ new coach after breaking the news to his players — though they surely already knew — during a brief meeting at Husky Stadium.
Here’s what Sarkisian said when he was asked Wednesday whether he wished he’d handled that radio spot differently: “You know, it’s unfortunate. I did that Monday morning radio show with Mitch (Levy) every Monday morning after a game. And honestly, in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have done that interview that morning, but I had committed to the interview. And I did the interview, there was nothing done, I hadn’t accepted the job at USC yet. Hindsight’s 20/20 in those moments. I probably should have stayed out of interviews and stayed away from cameras. But I did it. I tried to handle it to the best of my ability.
“So looking back, probably the biggest mistake was just going on-air. And Mitch did his job. I’m not upset with Mitch at all. I have a great deal of respect for Mitch. He did his job. I tried to answer the questions as best I could. Unfortunately it didn’t come out the best way I would have liked, but that’s life. You try to keep moving forward.”
Sarkisian said he’s “happy” that UW hired Chris Petersen to replace him.
“I’m happy for the University of Washington. I’m happy for those players. I think Coach Petersen is a very good football coach,” Sarkisian said. “I have a great deal of respect for him. Generally when you’re a coach and in opposition, you don’t really pull for different teams. You just kind of watch games and you get a feel. I can honestly say I’m going to be rooting for those guys this fall. We obviously don’t play them. They’re in a different division. I want those kids to have a great experience. We put a lot of time and effort into that program over the last five years and I want success for those kids. I was extremely happy for them that they won their bowl game and I’m hopeful they can go out and have a championship season this fall.”
He said a few UW players have even stopped by USC’s football offices to see him.
“A few of them have dropped by the building when they’ve been in town to say hello. It’s been great,” Sarkisian said. “I really tried to convey to them my heartfelt honesty of why I left and why I took the job that I took. I think the majority of them understood that. Maybe some of them didn’t. That’s OK. But they’re good kids and when you bring them into the program and they give you everything they gave us for five years, I’m extremely thankful for that.”
Even if leaving them was like dumping a girlfriend, in his words.
“I don’t think it’s ever easy. I don’t know if you guys have ever had girlfriends, but when you break up with your girlfriend it’s never easy,” Sarkisian said. “It’s always hard and you do it the best way you know how and you just try to be up-front and honest. You try not to disrespect one school or another school or some kids or another kid. In a perfect world I wish I would have gotten to our players sooner so they didn’t have to hear it from anybody else.
“But at the end of the day I got that opportunity to get up in front of them and address them so they knew exactly where I was coming from. That’s all you can ask for as a coach. I’m happy they went on and won the bowl game. I thought Marques (Tuiasosopo) did a great job of guiding them through that, and I thought Scott (Woodward) did a great job in the coaching search and finding a really good coaching staff for those guys so they can continue to grow as a program.”
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple