ATLANTA (AP) — Lane Kiffin knows something about revitalizing his coaching career with a successful stopover as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
Now, Kiffin is on his way out and another former Southern California head coach, Steve Sarkisian, will replace him after the playoffs. Kiffin has parlayed the pairing with Nick Saban into three Southeastern Conference titles, at least one national championship and the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic .
Sarkisian is still working as an offensive analyst for the top-ranked Crimson Tide, which faces No. 4 Washington in Saturday’s Peach Bowl semifinal game.
“I’m sure if he were to write a script, that’s how he would have wrote it,” Kiffin said. Sarkisian is “an offensive coordinator again versus having to go be a position coach again in less than one year and it’s at the best place in the country with the best head coach. I was really happy for him.”
The Saban-Kiffin pairing has been successful by any standard, including three playoff berths and a 13-0 start this season. It’s also been visibly combustible at times with cameras capturing Saban giving Kiffin an earful on the sidelines during games.
Kiffin was asked if he could recall Saban’s happiest moment in a game.
“I don’t recall a happy moment,” Kiffin said, adding that he only remembers the many times he was chewed out. “I won’t take that part of the process with me, though.”
The players have noticed that sometimes tense in-game relationship. Left tackle Cam Robinson said the angriest he’s seen Saban was when he was “probably mad at Coach Kiffin for something.”
Asked how mad Saban has gotten at him, Robinson said: “Not as mad as he gets at Coach Kiffin.”
Kiffin believes it will be an “easy transition” — and that Sarkisian’s personality might be better suited for working under Saban.
Saban hired Kiffin months after his firing at USC — famously at the airport after a late-night flight back from a game. USC fired Sarkisian in October 2015 after several incidents, including an embarrassing public display at a prep rally where he appeared to be intoxicated. He later sought treatment for alcoholism.
Now, Kiffin is handing him the reins to an offense led by freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. He also believes Sarkisian will work better with Saban than he has over the past three years.
“The best way I would describe that without details would be, I think his personality will work a little bit better than mine with Coach Saban,” Kiffin said. “I’m not saying it’s bad with him it all. I would say Sark manages people better than I do.”
He’s interviewing coaching candidates for his new staff and taking care of other Florida Atlantic duties mostly at night leading up to the Peach Bowl.
Kiffin also discussed his hiring of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles from Baylor and the signing of former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson by Florida Atlantic.
Briles is the son of former Baylor coach Art Briles, who lost his job amid a sexual assault scandal at the school.
“I don’t think because you’re on the staff and there’s an issue going on that no one said you’re directly involved in the issue, that it should follow you,” Kiffin said. “I think that’s a different situation.”
Florida State dismissed Johnson in July 2015 after prosecutors released video showing him punching a woman at a bar. Kiffin said that recruitment and vetting was handled by the administration and the previous coaching staff through “a ton of research.”
“With De’Andre, that was something in place that they had done a ton of research,” he said. “I’ve never even met him. I wouldn’t know him if he walked in the room.”