- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Things will be different for Pete Carroll in Seattle compared to coaching at USC. The Trojans' song girls will not be on the sideline (bad), nor will a marching band that plays the same fight song over and over and over and over (good).
Nonetheless, Carroll will bring much of his USC experience into his new job as Seahawks head coach and executive vice president.
"I've grown from that experience," Carroll said Tuesday at his first news conference with the Seahawks. "I know so much more clearly where I'm coming from than I did then. I was not at my best in New York [with the Jets]. I can't tell you how far away I was then to where I am now. I was not at my best in New England. The Seahawks have benefited from what I've gone through.
"I don't have any problem with going into the league and helping these players be the best they can possibly be. The challenges are a little different. We get to coach them more, we get to be around them so much more, there is no compliance office to deal with -- it's a different feeling."
Speaking of the compliance office, Carroll denied the ample speculation that he chose to leave USC now because the program may face sanctions for NCAA violations.
"As far as leaving USC goes, there was never going to be a right time," he said. "Whether we had won every game or not, there was not going to be a perfect time. We had such a deep relationship with that whole community that surrounds that club, that team, that school, that it was always going to be hard. We gave so much into it that it was always going to be hard. The fact that it's coming up now doesn't mean anything beyond this glorious opportunity with the Seattle Seahawks.
"There is always going to be questions about NCAA stuff, but you'll see when everything comes out, I'm not involved in any of that. We've been dealing with that for five years. In my mind I'm very comfortable with it. Down the line, if the university has to deal with it, we also feel very comfortable down there that everything will work out very well and all the facts and truths will come out."
The Seahawks embraced my approach and the way I see things and way I want to do things. They don't have an agenda of how they want their football team. They want me to do that. That's precisely what I was looking for.
”-- Seattle head coach Pete Carroll
So why leave one of the best college programs in the country to take on an NFL team that went 5-11 this past season and 4-12 in 2008? Well, the money is good -- a reported $30 million deal -- and there is the appeal of coaching in the best football league there is. Just as importantly, Carroll said he'll have a level of control that allows him to build the team toward his vision, an option he says no NFL team had offered previously.
"The Seahawks embraced my approach and the way I see things and way I want to do things," he said. "They don't have an agenda of how they want their football team. They want me to do that. That's precisely what I was looking for."
Just how all that works with the rest of the front office remains to be seen. Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke stressed there would be collaboration between Carroll and whoever the team hires as general manager. Carroll will have a say in the general manager hire, and Leiweke said the GM will not be above the coach.
"We're still working on it," Leiweke said. "Notionally, the generally manager will report into the CEO office, as will the coach, and then you have another function, which is cap contract. They'll work shoulder to shoulder."
Leiweke said that at the end of the season, when the Seahawks lost their final four games (including three blowouts), he felt a lack of hope for the future. "That lack of hope ultimately became a great motivator because your adversity can become your opportunity. And when I talked to Pete Carroll, I found great hope in what he had to say."
Can Carroll duplicate his USC success in Seattle? The Seahawks position is Carroll's third crack as a head coach in the NFL. He was 6-10 with the Jets in 1994 and 27-21 with the Patriots from 1997 to '99. That track record provoked doubts in some similar to those now about Carroll's ability when he took the USC job.
"I was 27-21 in New England; that's not a bad record," Carroll said. "We didn't quite get it done. It was a time when I was still developing how to put a process together. When you watch our play, you will forget about what happened and whatever you think about the old days."
The main difference, Carroll said, is he grew at USC. "The mindset of being a champion for so many years and being on top for so long transforms you and the way you look at things and your expectations and what you expect from other people. I'm almost embarrassed that I was coaching an NFL club and still didn't have my act together. But you have to figure it out, and you have to go through the process."
Carroll inherits a team that won only nine games in two years -- four of which, Leiweke pointed out, were against the terrible St. Louis Rams -- and has issues on the offensive line plus a 34-year-old quarterback who has been banged up quite a bit. Carroll expressed enthusiasm about Matt Hasselbeck but also said the Seahawks will emphasize the running game.
Known as a players' coach, Carroll resisted the idea that his approach works with 21-year-old college students but won't with older players earning millions.
"I don't think there needs to be a difference," he said. "What happens in the NFL is guys get older and they get a little more of an opinion of what the world is all about -- their world, the football world. That's something you deal with, and that's just a natural process, and we have to grow together to help guys understand how that can work against them, and it doesn't help them always stay clear with what's really important. And what's important in football from Pop Warner to the NFL is working hard.
"Is there any difference in coaching a 20-year-old, a 24-year-old, a 34-year-old? I don't think so, unless you don't understand that they grow. As long as a football player knows you're helping him get what he wants, there isn't a problem. That's what you have to do. That's why communication is so important. Maybe that's different from how the rest of the league does it, but I don't care. I don't know how to do it any other way."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at jimcaple.
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