THE FAST LANE

Del Olaleye: Meet college football's next Steve Spurrier

Lane Kiffin is fun for college football. FAUOwlaccess.com

The best thing to happen to college football this season was Lane Kiffin moving to Boca Raton. Fortunately for Kiffin and the rest of the college football world Boca Raton is home to Florida Atlantic University and they just happened to have a job opening. There has been a void in college football created by the departure of Steve Spurrier from the sport. Really this void was created the minute the OBC (Ol’ Ball Coach) left Florida for the Redskins job. Spurrier did a great job rebuilding the South Carolina program when he returned to college football, leading that program to three straight 11-win seasons in his time there but he wasn’t the same swaggering sh-- talker that everyone feared while he was at Florida. He wasn’t a mute at South Carolina but he was at his best when he was leading the Fun and Gun at his alma mater. No coach was safe and even legends of the sport caught it, on Peyton Manning: "I know why Peyton came back for his senior year. He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl."

Spurrier was one of a kind and the sport is worse off without him. That brings me back to Kiffin. He isn’t Spurrier yet. He doesn’t have the cache, the wins or half the respect, but what he does have is no filter, arrogance, a great offensive mind and insight into Alabama, the most dominant program in all of college football. Saban and Kiffin was an odd partnership the moment Kiffin’s hiring by Alabama was announced. How would Saban’s process-oriented approach mesh with Kiffin’s less than stellar past? Pretty, pretty good. Three CFP appearances from 2014-2016 including a National Title in the 2015 season.

The expected rough patches did occur. The most noteworthy being a sideline argument during the National semifinal against the Washington Huskies. Kiffin, already named the FAU head coach, was let go by Saban during title game week for what Saban thought would be in the best interest of the student athletes at both schools. Alabama went on to lose to Clemson and Deshaun Watson in the final seconds of the title game in Steve Sarkisian’s only game as the Bama OC. Kiffin, when asked about his departure in a September 2017 article by the Washington Post said he believed Alabama would be a two-time defending champion if he had been allowed to coach through the title game.

Kiffin kept his eye trained on the Crimson Tide in 2017 while guiding Florida Atlantic to a perfect 8-0 record in conference play and their first Conference USA title. That early success allows for the twitter shots at Saban. Pointing out Saban’s apparent hypocrisy regarding the requirements for making the College Football Playoff are only accepted because Kiffin won eleven games in year one. Without the early validation Kiffin would be subject to jokes about going down to Boca Raton to retire. He’d be quiet. Quiet Kiffin is the worst Kiffin. Out from under the Alabama machine and at a program who would just like to win some damn games he is free to do and say what he wants.

Telling the college football world via the Dan Patrick Show that its newest star Tua Tagovailoa would have transferred from Alabama had he not played in the title game is how he started 2018. According to Kiffin, Tagovailoa thought he should be starting but Saban wouldn’t give him the opportunity. This is why Kiffin’s continued on-field success is so important. I don’t care what he has to say about Butch Davis at FIU or Doc Holliday at Marshall. No one really cared what Steve Spurrier had to say at Duke about the Wake Forest coach either.  Once Spurrier was hired by Florida and starting poking at the blue bloods in the SEC his legend grew. The great offenses and all that winning in the '90s certainly didn’t hurt as well.

We should all hope Kiffin does enough winning at FAU to move on to a bigger job. In the Big Ten perhaps? Kiffin vs Harbaugh? Kiffin vs Meyer? Game week would be better than the actual game. He’d be hated by every fanbase in the conference but his own. Hating everybody but your own is what college football is about and the former USC and Tennessee Vols coach would be a perfect foil. The next big school to hire Kiffin will have a target on its back the moment the introductory press conference begins because Coach Lane can’t help himself.

The great Childish Gambino once said, “They don’t listen when you mumble.” Kiffin wants to be heard.

Meet the next Steve Spurrier. Lane Kiffin.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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