Pete Carroll on Tatupu and Hasselbeck

Before Pete Carroll goes into his first training camp as the Seattle Seahawks coach, he is sharing what he has learned on the sidelines from previous work in the NFL and his tenure at USC in his book, Win Forever: Live, Work and Play Like a Champion. Carroll talked with Sporting News‘ Vinnie Iyer on Thursday afternoon about the book and the new challenges facing him in Seattle.

Q: Was there any concern over the book coming out now with all that’s been going at USC?
A: The book had to come out now. It turned out to be an opportune time to be singing the praises of the history, standards and expectations of the ‘SC program. So people who want to know can hear the truth of what’s going on and not the perception of what they’re hearing.

Q: What are the biggest things you’ve learned since you were last in the NFL in 1999?
A: The inspiration came from reading coach John Wooden’s book. Jobs before, I thought I had my act together but the book tells the story of how I didn’t. Once I realized what I needed to do to get my philosophy and system in order, I looked back and said, “How could I have got it done without all of this understanding?” The energy that I coach with and the way I communicate, that stuff is the same. We have confidence we can be successful here in due time.

Q: How much has the NFL changed in the decade or so you were gone?
A: The league has evolved, but we’ve always stayed with the league schematically. In the offseasons, we always studied the NFL. I don’t feel that we’re out of that loop at all. The game has just grown, but that’s something we’ve always stayed connected with.

Q: How does rebuilding an NFL team compare to building a consistent winner at USC?
A: The process is a little bit different, but it’s still the acquisition of your personnel and talent. You’re trying to build your team. We have a real, strict, long embedded philosophy—the evaluation process never ends.

Q: What is your biggest initial challenge in Seattle?
A: Reconstructing the mentality. A lot of players on this team have had two really tough seasons. It’s a belief in themselves and the belief we can challenge for a division championship, to get our mindset going so we go in with guns blazing. We’ve had a highly successful offseason that’s only worth something if we can back it up.

Q: What will it be like coaching against some of your former star players, such as facing Cardinals QB Matt Leinart twice this year?
A: I’ve always liked to beat the guys I know more than anybody. The more I know somebody, the more I want to beat him because we’re great friends and care so much. It’s like watching your own kids; they’re grown up and out there doing it. We’ll play with some guys and play against a lot of other guys. Hopefully, we’ll get the better of them and then shake their hands after the game.

Q: You’ve coached some great linebackers at USC, including Lofa Tatupu. What’s it been like having both him and Aaron Curry in Seattle?
A: Lofa is as good and as effective as a player as anyone we ever coached at SC in those nine years—the most savvy. Lofa helps players around him play well. He can give them all the calls and adjustments that make them play at their best. When Aaron Curry and Lofa were playing side by side last year, Aaron was playing great. When Lofa got hurt, Aaron struggled a bit. As a young guy, you need a guy next to you to show you the ropes. I see Lofa being one of our leaders. That familiarity has already given us a great start in how we’ve been received by the team.

Q: What are your impressions of veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck?
A: They’ve had an experienced quarterback who’s been an NFC champion and a Pro Bowler, and I just thought that was a great asset. Matt is a kid I have known since the New England days. He took on the challenge to make (this year) the offseason of his life, working and studying hard. He’s in great shape and physically fit—now we just need to protect him and keep him healthy. All the while, he’s holding off the challenges of Charlie Whitehurst.

Q: Your drafting of offensive tackle Russell Okung is a huge step in rebuilding the line. How critical is improving the blocking in the running game?
A: Our ability to run the football will affect more things than anything else. It will help us with our play-action game and pass protection-wise. If we can work the clock, it will help our defense. So what happens up front and with the running backs who can take on heavy duty is huge. I think of Alex Gibbs as the best running coach who’s ever been in the NFL; I’m so thrilled he’s on our staff. That’s where it all begins. When we take Russell with our first pick, it’s another statement to back up our running philosophy.

Q: What’s the biggest hurdle facing a coach returning to the NFL after several seasons away?
A: It’s all getting back to hard work, building relationships with your staff so everyone can communicate effectively and also transferring that language and principles to our players. It’s a racehorse pace for us to catch up with the other teams.

Q: What’s the difference between coaching high-paid veterans in contrast to young, hungry college kids?
A: We have to stay ahead of them and make sure we challenge our learners with the information, tips and advice that we have so they keep coming back for more.

Q: What’s some of the best coaching advice you’ve picked up along the way?
A: Be yourself, something that I was reminded by George Seifert and Bill Walsh when I was going through the New England years. Don’t try to please people by being someone else. From Bud Grant, it’s so important to be a great observer. So you see, watch and pick up all the information you can get from all the people and experiences in the game.