On July 2, Jim Wyatt of the NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN reported of then-current Titans assistant coach Kennedy Pola, who coach Jeff Fisher had just hired away from Jacksonville:
Just got off the phone with Titans running backs coach Kennedy Pola and he sure doesn’t sound like a guy on the move.
He’s still in the process of moving into his home in Nashville, in fact, and said he doesn’t plan on going anywhere. As mentioned below, Southern Cal is looking for a new running backs coach and Pola has been mentioned as a possibility.
“I really enjoy Nashville and being with (Coach) Jeff Fisher and the leadership here, the management,’’ Pola said. “It’s really been a new sense of energy.’’
Today Wyatt reported that Lane Kiffin had hired Pola as USC offensive coordinator. The news reportedly upset Fisher, apparently because he was one of the last to know:
The Titans lost their running backs coach on Saturday, and Coach Jeff Fisher isn’t happy with former Tennessee Vols coach Lane Kiffin about it.
Fisher said Kiffin, now head coach at Southern Cal, never contacted him as he tried to convince Kennedy Pola to join his coaching staff. On Saturday morning, Pola accepted a position as offensive coordinator at USC, leaving the Titans without a running backs coach a week before training camp.
“I am very disappointed in Lane Kiffin’s approach to this,’’ Fisher said. “Typically speaking when coaches are interested in hiring or discussing potential employment from coaches on respective staffs there is a courtesy call made from the head coach or athletic director indicating there is an interest in talking to the assistant.
“So I am very disappointed in the lack of professionalism on behalf of Lane, to call me and leave me a voice mail after Kennedy had informed me he had taken the job. It is just a lack of professionalism.’’
Pola reportedly told Fisher on Friday he was considering taking the job at USC. Saturday he made the call to take the OC gig at USC, where he’d previously worked as an assistant under Pete Carroll.
Fisher expressed his, “disappointment in his lack of commitment. Kennedy is a fine ball coach, the timing is just a little unusual, a week before training camp.”
More: “I’ve always gotten a courtesy call from a head coach or athletic director in the past, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know (Lane) well, so I am not going to pass judgement on his character. But I am surprised.”
The Titans begin training camp on July 31.
What’s semi-amusing in all of this is that as a resident of Tennessee, where Kiffin just experienced a turbulent departure as head football coach at the Univ. of Tennessee, Fisher may have been the only person in the state who was surprised by Kiffin’s stealth hiring method.
With Fisher also a prominent former USC football player, this makes you wonder how new USC Athletic Director Pat Haden will react to Kiffin’s poaching Pola away from a prominent USC alumnus.
UPDATE: Lane Kiffin has released a statement to the media on the timeline of the Pola hire:
We reached out to Kennedy Pola yesterday to gauge whether he had any possible interest in returning to USC before we moved forward with the process.
“Kennedy said he would think about it and get back to us today. Once Kennedy did call back earlier today, out of my great respect for Coach Fisher I immediately reached out to Coach to make him aware of the situation.
“I have spoken with Coach Fisher and he now has an accurate understanding of the timeline of events.
“We realize the timing of this isn’t perfect for all parties, but this is a great opportunity and promotion for Kennedy.”
What’s most interesting in this chain of events is why Kiffin would suddenly decide to hire an offensive coordinator, when Kiffin previously seemed dead-set on calling the offensive plays himself.
Could this move been influenced by some encouragement by Pat Haden? Why else would Kiffin be calling Pola out of the blue right before training camp for a job he apparently had no interest in filling?