Seahawks' Carroll: Thrilled With Huskies' Progress Under Sark
May 9, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Pete Carroll was getting so excited talking about what Steve Sarkisian has done with the Huskies, for a minute it became unclear who the mentor is.
"I'm thrilled to watch what Sark is doing," Carroll, the coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, said Monday during a Northwest regional meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors at the headquarters of the Seattle Times. "I went over a couple times to watch them practice, in the spring, and his practices, the feeling, his coaches, being in their facility, seeing him running with the players around - I could totally feel it.
"He's captured a mentality. He's confident on how to do it. It's a fun environment to be around," Carroll said of Sarkisian's open and free-wheeling practices with music blaring throughout - just like they were when Carroll was the coach and Sarkisian was an assistant at USC. "He's as upbeat as you can get. You see all kinds of good stuff happening, in every aspect of their program. You can TOTALLY feel it. And so that's something that is really familiar to me."
"It" is Carroll's mantra of always competing in every aspect of football and in life, which the second-year Seahawks coach detailed in a short, philosophical talk Monday afternoon.
Then he was asked about getting to watch from basically his front porch the job his former offensive coordinator at SC until January 2009 is doing at UW.
The 37-year-old Sarkisian, a first-time head coach, has orchestrated one of the most successful turnarounds in the last half century of major college football.
From 1960 through last December, there had been 74 teams endure winless seasons. Only 11 of those 74 teams rebounded with 11 or more victories in the first two seasons after going winless, as Sarkisian's Huskies did. Washington went 5-7 in Sarkisian's debut season then won its final four games of 2010, to finish 7-6. The last victory December 30 in the Holiday Bowl, an upset of a Nebraska team that had beaten UW by 35 points months earlier.
Sarkisian's Huskies are just the 12th of those formerly winless 74 teams to make a bowl game within two years, and are among just a handful of those to win that bowl.
The 59-year-old Carroll didn't need to be reminded of that. He's the one who brought the then-26-year-old Sarkisian onto his USC staff for the first time in January 2001 as an offensive assistant.
Sarkisian ultimately spent seven seasons under Carroll with the Trojans, going to a bowl game each year and eventually winning multiple Rose Bowls as the quarterbacks coach and Carroll's offensive coordinator.
In a role reversal, Carroll followed Sarkisian to Seattle, returning to the NFL with the Seahawks a year after Sarkisian took over the Huskies. They live in the same neighborhood on the eastern shores of Lake Washington yet rarely see each other.
"We're both so busy with our own practices we don't cross over as much as you would think," Carroll said. "We live close together, but we rarely see each other on our street and everything. But the other side of it, nothing's changed at all. We just don't see each other as much as we want to."
Yet they still talk often, including two weeks ago when Sarkisian called Carroll for advice on how to announce a starting quarterback coming out of spring practice.
"I have great respect for Pete, obviously he is a tremendous mentor to me," Sarkisian said, days before he listed Keith Price as UW's No. 1 quarterback on last week's post-spring depth chart. "And that's not the first time I've called him, believe me, on issues."
Carroll has had more time lately for visiting, with the NFL in its lockout and hiatus from offseason activity. Carroll was at UW's Pro Day when Jake Locker and other former Huskies worked out in advance of the league's draft last month. He was also at the Huskies' spring practice, and loved the USC-like vibe he felt from the sidelines.
Then again, how could he not feel that? During Huskies practices Sarkisian looks like Carroll looked at USC -- and still looked last fall while leading the Seahawks through spirited practices. Seattle then upset Super Bowl-champion New Orleans in the first round of January's playoffs, a win almost no one felt was possible.
Sarkisian's staff at Washington is full of Carroll's former Trojans assistants, from defensive coordinator Nick Holt to secondary coach Demetrice Martin, strength coach Ivan Lewis, as well as several administrative staff members.
So now wonder Carroll feels familiar around Sarkisian's Huskies.
"I'm thrilled to see it happen, and I'm also thrilled to see the results. I mean, what's the difference about beating Nebraska and beating the Saints?" Carroll said. "Look at what they did. It was fantastic. And he called it. They had to win the last three games. Jake played marvelous football. The team played great. Nick's guys played marvelously on defense. They got it all done.
"And who would have thought they could have done it?"
Carroll also sees the unity and effectiveness of Sarkisian's coaching staff, which is remaining intact for the third consecutive season. That is a rarity today in college or NFL football.
"The staging of it, they had a lot farther distance to come from, you know. 0-11 or whatever it was the year before he got there. They had a lot of ground to make up, and he's doing it," Carroll said. "I couldn't be more excited watching him and listening to him talk about it, listening to his coaches, listening to the exchange going on. Everyone is kind of on the same page.
"It's pretty exciting."