First impressions are everything. It can define your reputation for years to come and that can be a good or bad thing.
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach made their SEC Media Days debut this week. People couldn’t wait to see the two unusual characters have a platform to spew whatever thought passed through their brilliant minds.
Here were their opening statements.
Kiffin: “Commissioner actually reminded me, when he saw Knox (Kiffin’s son), went up and said hi to Knox, you know, that Knox needs to earn his scholarship because the Commissioner’s fine last year, I think I tweeted that Knox’s college fund is gone, thanks to the fine there.”
Leach: ““Alright, I’m not a big opening statement guy, and plus, you guys are going to ask whatever you want to know anyway, so let’s just go ahead and get started. Is there any questions?”
Kiffin and Leach’s first impression is that they don’t care about first impressions. A refreshing change of pace. The SEC has mostly had old-school coaches that always feared the media and never spoke their mind.
The exception being Steve Spurrier.
The best part is that these two coaches are in the same state and will play each other every year for the Egg Bowl.
Kiffin has always shown his personality on twitter.
“Yeah, Twitter was not a plan like a long time ago. It really started — I didn’t know anything about it,” said Kiffin. “It started a long time ago for recruiting, and then there was a time there where there was a rule which didn’t make any sense that you could not text the kids or the parents, but you could direct message them on Twitter. So that’s really how we had to learn to use Twitter or we’re going to fall behind, even as an assistant coach at Alabama.”
Mike Leach has always shown his personality by, well, just talking.
He was asked about his impression of the SEC based on COVID-19 restrictions in stadiums.
“Just an impressive league, impressive places,” Leach said. “Didn’t necessarily get the full effect of the stadium. Obviously, the crowd is far more animated than a lot of people like the cardboard people in there. I couldn’t help but think of The Twilight Zone.”
Both men have a connection with Tennessee. Kiffin was the Vols head coach in 2009 before bolting for the USC job.
Q: Lane, another quarterback question for you. At this event 12 years ago you brought your All SEC ballot to prove you voted for Tim Tebow as preseason All SEC quarterback. I was curious who would be your pick this year for preseason All SEC quarterback?
Lane Kiffin: “All right. I didn’t even remember that 12 years ago, but now that you say that, because I believe there was something about someone didn’t have Tebow at First Team All SEC. As usual, I was accused of that. So I brought my ballot to show everyone, to show Urban. What was the second part of the question? You got me all off there. We’re back to Urban Meyer and Tebow and singing Rocky Top in The Swamp all night long, that part.”
Mike Leach was connected to getting the Tennessee job in 2018. It’s considered one of the craziest coaching searches college football has ever seen and lead to the firing of Tennessee’s athletic director before a coach was even hired.
“I talked to Tennessee, but that thing never — well, nothing ever got nailed down,” Leach said. “Then pretty soon, they had a coup d’etat there. You guys can sort that among yourselves, but that’s pretty well-documented. So, yeah, I didn’t end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me.”
Like I said; both men just speak their mind.
Most coaches in that situation would just say, “I’m happy to be the coach at (name school) and that’s all that matters.”
However, both coaches were not whiling to be so open about every topic.
Kiffin was asked about how he lost weight this offseason and how he plans to lose more.
“Strange question to ask a guy but — You’re being negative about Mississippi food. I’m being positive,” said Kiffin. “It’s a Mississippi diet. I came to Mississippi, I embraced the food, and just not a lot of it, and have some portion control. So that’s not really what the diet was, but I’m going to be positive about the food in Mississippi.”
Leach was asked whether or not he had been vaccinated.
“If I was or I wasn’t, I wouldn’t share it with you.”
Hey, we all have our boundaries. Most SEC coaches have always had very stiff personalities in public. The boys in Mississippi do not. Some SEC folks may be uncomfortable with that, some have embraced it.
Make no mistake. Kiffin and Leach are a gift from the football gods.