On opposite sides of the spectrum, Paterno and Carroll just win
LOS ANGELES -- On Sept. 15, 2033, Pete Carroll will turn 82 years old. There is a pretty good chance he will not be preparing a game plan for USC that week.
"As much as I like running around, and being active at practice, I don't know what it would be like," Carroll said. "...Maybe I could adapt. I don't know. I'm pretty entrenched in the way I like to do it."
The Trojans' coach is nearly 25 years younger than the opposing coach in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi on Thursday (ABC, 4:30 p.m. ET). In many ways, Carroll and Penn State coach Joe Paterno prove the width of the coaching spectrum.
Carroll livens up practice by bringing in USC grad Will Ferrell to give a mock pep talk. Paterno livens up practice by standing on one practice field and spotting mistakes on the other.
"I don't know what the prescription is on those glasses," fifth-year senior safety Mark Rubin said. "He'll be over 150 yards away and he'll see it. 'What are you doing? Why are you messing up?'"
Carroll can sound new age.
"When you play a game, you should have fun," Carroll said. "When you get involved in the whole process of preparing for a game, you should enjoy it. When you do, you'll get more out of it."
Paterno can sound old age.
He got the laugh he wanted.
Carroll said he listens to a wide array of music, mentioning everything from '60s music to the Foo Fighters. It's a good guess that the only fighter Paterno has listened to is Frank Sinatra.
Carroll, open in his admiration for Paterno, said, "He's a remarkable person, you know, to be able to carry this kind of spirit for so long through his career. He might be the living image of Benjamin Button here."
The reference to the current film about the man who ages in reverse sailed over the graying head of Paterno.
"The living example of whom?" he asked.
After someone explained, Paterno said, "I've seen two movies in the last 40 years: E.T. and Titanic. I walked out of Titanic, I felt like I was in the bath."
Paterno may be neither new nor hip, but he has a new hip, and that has made all the difference. The coach who arrived in Los Angeles this week is not the same guy who wore a grimace and needed a cane for most of the season.
"I feel good, really," he said. "My only problem is I get tired. I don't have any problems with any pain."
Paterno said he is worn out from doing exercises that will strengthen the muscles around his new hip not because of some reason as silly as, oh, being 82 years old.
He confirmed Wednesday that he will coach the Rose Bowl from the press box. He doesn't want to stand for three-plus hours.
"About five, six days ago, Pete and I were together," Paterno said. "He asked me what I was going to do. I said, 'I think I'm probably going to go upstairs, but if you would agree not to throw the ball more than 15, 18 times, we can get that game over in less than three hours. I might be on the sideline.
"Pete said to me, 'If I see you on the sideline, we're going to throw it 50 times."
But there is one attribute that Carroll and Paterno share. They win bowl games. Paterno is 23-10-1 in the postseason. Carroll is 5-2.
"We've had great ends of our seasons," Carroll said. "I think it separates us somewhat. Any athlete or coach would like to say his team finishes well. You're at your best at the end when it's most meaningful."
The history is that if you give Paterno six weeks to prepare a defense, he will build a wall. In 34 bowl games, the Nittany Lions have held the opponent to 17 points or fewer 21 times. The most famous example is the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, when the Nittany Lions intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde five times and upset No. 1 Miami, 14-10.
"I've always felt comfortable, when we've gotten a team good enough to come to a bowl this prestigious as this one, that there was a little something special about them," Paterno said. "So we've tried to make it a fun thing. We didn't have any curfew until three nights ago ... I told them to go out and have fun and don't get in any trouble. Take care of each other. Be careful where you go. Things like that.
"When it's time to concentrate, on what it takes in the way of physical exertion to be ready, we've been able to get them to respond to that."
Carroll's philosophy is captured in the 2008 team T-shirt. It reads: Finish.
"We understand finishing to be [that] you continue to do things right longer than the other guys. That's simply how it is," Carroll said. "You don't try to change. You don't try to adapt differently because it's the fourth quarter. You continue to believe in who you are, what you are, and you continue to do things well longer than the other guys."
If Carroll decides to coach 25 more seasons, he will have had at least one close look at Paterno. Someone asked Carroll if, as a young coach, he had picked up anything from Paterno. Carroll demurred, saying he was a "West Coast guy." Then he thought of something.
"I rolled my pants up a little once," he said.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions," is on sale now. For more information, go to TheMaiselReport.com.
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From the announcement to breakdowns to the final gun, we have the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi between Penn State and USC covered.
• Maisel: USC finishes the job early
• Maisel: Carroll, Paterno operate finishing schools
• Maisel: Senior class changes Lions' fortunes
• Maisel: Is USC's defense the best ever?
• Maisel: Penn State carries Big Ten burden
• Miller: Rose QBs same, but different
• Miller: Welcome to the circus
• Rittenberg: Maybin seizes opportunity with Lions
• Rittenberg: Bowman grows up fast at LB U
• Rittenberg: Paterno demotes several starters
• Miller: USC trio has big bang plan for Rose Bowl
• Rittenberg: Lions in league of their own
• Conversation: Penn State coach Joe Paterno
• Rose Bowl preview
• McShay's breakdown
• Maisel, Schlabach break it down Podcast
• Podcast: Ivan, Beano on JoePa and Rose Bowl