AUSTIN (KXAN) — Steve Sarkisian’s earned a second chance. He knows it, and he doesn’t take it for granted.
“I think there’s a level of appreciation for the opportunity,” Sarkisian said. “I think there’s definitely have a level of humility.”
That humility comes from how his last head coaching job ended. In 2015, he was fired in the middle of his second season at USC after reports of him being drunk on the job.
“Nobody likes getting fired,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t care if you get a big paycheck or not, that’s not fun for you, that’s not fun for your family, that’s not fun for your coaching staff and their families. A lot of people get affected by that. So, now, to be back in the seat I think I’ve got a great deal of appreciation for the opportunity.”
The opportunity is well-earned, though. After hitting rock bottom, Sarkisian joined Nick Saban’s Alabama staff as an offensive analyst for a season. He ended 2016 as the interim offensive coordinator for the Tide’s national championship game – a 35-31 loss to Clemson.
After that, he spent two seasons in the NFL as the Falcons’ OC, before returning to Tuscaloosa as the Tide’s full-time offensive coordinator. Last season, he directed a Bama offense that produced the Heisman Trophy winner, another finalist and five first-round draft picks.
“I think through a lot of the work that I’ve done individually, I’m in a pretty good place, just understanding that my demeanor, how I feel, I think is going to be a great indicator of how our team is going to feel. I didn’t recognize that as much early on in my career that most teams really take on the personality of the head coach.”
If he did know that when he first started as a head coach, it could be blamed as a lack of experience. In 2008, when he was just 34-years-old, Washington hired him to take over a winless Huskies program.
He led them to a 5-7 season in his first year and then had four-straight winning seasons after that before taking over at USC.
“I think when you’re level headed, when you’re focused, when you when you’re highly competitive and driven, when you have a chip on your shoulder maybe with something to prove, your team kind of takes on that persona too,” Sarkisian said. “So I feel like that’s probably a little bit of a shift in the psyche, for me that has occurred over time.”
In his first year with the Trojans, he went 9-4. Southern Cal was 3-2 in his second season before he got fired on Oct. 12, 2015.
It’s that fall, that has him so appreciative of getting another chance to lead one of college football’s blue-blood programs.
“For me, I feel like this is right where I’m supposed to be at this time in my life, and it feels great being here. [I’m] looking forward to the opportunity.”