Column: Who took the wind out of Kiffin's sails?


Column: Who took the wind out of Kiffin's sails?

School officials at Southern California fired a student manager after he admitted taking the air out of some footballs before last week's home game against Oregon.

Good. Now they can resume searching for who took the wind out of Lane Kiffin's sails.

Just kidding about that last part, if only because Kiffin hardly needs help. Most coaches are lucky to land even one dream job, but the former boy-wonder is fast wearing out the welcome at his third.

Kiffin's entree into the coaching business came early and his pedigree likely had a lot to do with it. Monte Kiffin currently works as defensive coordinator for his son as USC, but built a reputation as a defensive genius in the NFL and college ranks stretching back to before Lane was born. They became a package deal at Tennessee in 2009, when the Volunteers threw Lane a lifeline right after the late Raiders owner, Al Davis, fired him (with a 5-15 record) in Oakland. How much longer father and son stay together at USC remains to be seen.

That's the funny thing about these shenanigans. A solid defense is the one thing USC probably counted on when it hired the Kiffins to clean up after the NCAA punished the program for the mess Pete Carroll left behind two years ago. That was likely what the student manager thought, too, believing a deflated football would be easier for the Trojans to throw and catch. He didn't count on Oregon finding it easier, too, or imagine the Trojans would turn in their worst defensive performance ever in a 62-51 loss.

But bad defense alone doesn't explain how a loaded team that was No. 1 in plenty of preseason polls finds itself stumbling to 6-3. The Trojans also happen to be the most-penalized team in major college football, in no small part because of late hits and retaliatory fouls that a few players have chalked up to ``brotherhood.''

``Guys are looking out for each other, (but) you need to play within the rules,'' is how All-American receiver Robert Woods put it recently. ``We've made dumb mistakes. I retaliated and got a penalty, too.''

That's a funny thing, too. Part of the reason USC was supposed to be back in contention was Lane Kiffin's new-found maturity. He did a good job holding the program together last season, despite the crippling sanctions the NCAA imposed, but suddenly it seems he's up to some old tricks. He bailed on a post-practice news conference a while back after a harmless question. Not long after, USC was called out for having a player switch jerseys in a game against Colorado to run a trick play. So if you're wondering where the players got the idea that it's OK to retaliate after the whistle, or how a student manager concocted a scheme to deflate some footballs after the game officials had checked, the top might be a good place to start looking.

It seems Kiffin can't stop being cute. At Tennessee, he named a just-born son Monte Knox Kiffin, then said he'd be called ``Knox,'' a reference to the Vols' Knoxville location. When he left for the USC job, the joke was that he could spare his next child similar embarrassment by giving him the middle name: ``Mercenary.''

At his introductory news conference at USC, he tried to reassure a fan base that he would run a ``clean, disciplined program.'' But even as he was speaking, his recruiting coordinator, Ed Orgeron, who followed Kiffin from Tennessee to USC, was busy getting back in touch with some Volunteer recruits to tell them how much more fulfilling the coursework is at Southern California. The tone was set. USC is still clean, but after back-to-back humiliations by Oregon and Arizona, especially on the defensive side, ``disciplined'' is in question and the blame is being passed around.

``They can control the rest of their season,'' Kiffin said. ``There's a lot of teams in the country that can't after everything that's happened.''

But it's not just the players who need to step it up. Already, there have been a few calls to fire Monte, a possibility his son dismissed after last week's debacle.

``You can't make major changes in season,'' Lane Kiffin said. ``That never works.''

Of course, neither did taking the air out of the football. Better get back to the drawing board and fast.


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at) and follow him at

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 


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Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

Bradley Beal receives zero All-NBA votes, which itself is a snub

On Thursday the NBA revealed the All-NBA teams for the 2017-18 season.

Not surprisingly, Bradley Beal and John Wall did not make it to one of the three five-player teams. Of the two superstars, only Wall has been recognized once in his career.

What is surprising is that neither Beal nor Wall received a single vote in the whole process, especially Beal.

The 2017-18 season was without question the best in Beal’s career. He played in all 82 games, coming right off of the heals of his All-Star recognition. Beal seems to agree in his snubbing, tweeting this minutes after the teams were announced:

Looking at the list of players who made the top three teams, it shouldn’t be an issue, but these three guys got more votes than the Wizards' duo combined: Steven Adams, Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard. It is not surprising that Beal and Wall did not make an All-NBA team. It is odd that Beal didn’t receive a vote.

Here is a list of the full All-NBA Teams:


LeBron James (Cavaliers), James Harden (Rockets), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Kevin Durant (Warriors)


Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Joel Embiid (76ers), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors)


Stephen Curry (Warriors), Victor Oladipo (Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves), Paul George (Thunder)