Thursday, February 12, 2009

New pace marks culture change

SI has an insightful article this week about new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, who put together a strong staff in Knoxville, including his 68-year-old father Monte Kiffin, who was "widely considered the best defensive coordinator in the NFL" with the Bucs.

[Monte took a pay cut to join his son on the Vols staff, saying, "I didn't want to get paid too much. I just want to be a ball coach with my kid. I would've come even if the money hadn't been there."]

Coach Kiffin is working hard to put his stamp on the Tennessee program, ensuring there's a new sense of urgency among the Vols staff and players after 17 seasons under Phil Fulmer. In addition to a new coaching staff, a number of support staffers have moved on since he was hired, unable to keep pace with the new coach.

"You can't count the number of people we've run off because they couldn't keep up, and I'm including secretaries," he says. "They had to go because they weren't going to make it, and they knew it."

Because his family's not yet moved from Northern California to Knoxville, Coach Kiffin is sharing a house near the Tennessee campus with several assistant coaches. In his words, this allows him to "coach the coaches not only on a daily basis but on a nightly basis."

"I don't have to be their buddy," Kiffin says of his housemates. "I don't have time to watch some TV show with them. We have way too much to do. We're too far behind. I'm not worrying about three or four years from now. I want to win now. Wednesdays and Sundays are the same day of the week as far as I'm concerned. We're at work at 5:30 in the morning, and we don't finish until 10:30 at night. Any other way and we'd be average, and we're not here to be average."

Coach Kiffin has also instituted new rules for class attendance, requiring that his players "sit in the first or second row at every class. If a player sits in even the third row, he's marked as absent and faces time on the StairMaster as punishment."

"I was in my 8 a.m. math class the second day we came back," says All-America safety Eric Berry. "I'm the only player in there. Afterward my classmates start coming up to me. 'Dude, did you see Kiffin?' He'd come to the rear door and poked his head in to make sure I was there. Before, the coaches would send the weight-room guys or graduate assistants to check. But this was the head coach."