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Sunny in Seattle, Pete Carroll feels gloomy about the end in L.A.

From Seattle

It’s dark outside the Seahawks’ practice facility, Uncle Pete working all day on a plan to keep Reggie Bush from hurting him.

Now isn’t that funny, if not a little late.

The two will be together Sunday in New Orleans, two of the most dynamic sports figures to hit Los Angeles, Bush known best for his (family) moves and maybe pushing Pete Carroll to live elsewhere.

Carroll, as competitive as he was relentlessly enthusiastic, majored in fun at USC. But when it all ended, there was more talk about what went wrong than what had gone so right.

“Reggie and I haven’t spoken since the sanctions,” Uncle Pete says. “We texted a few times before it happened and maybe some after, but never hooked up.

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“I’m sure we’ll shake hands and hug, but that’s about all we’ll have time to do. Then we’ll give each other this look like now isn’t the place or time to talk any further.”

UCLA fans, of course, still have so many questions left unanswered. Did Uncle Pete know about the living arrangements for Bush’s family? Did he take off running because of the prospect of NCAA sanctions? Isn’t he just a cheater?

So many incredible accomplishments, marvelous memories and what a great run, but what about Uncle Pete’s L.A. legacy?

“I’m disappointed it got so hammered at the end,” he says. “I don’t like people thinking bad things of me or the program. But I was in charge of it, so I have to totally own it.”

But fight on he does. “Sports is the greatest vehicle on this planet to bring people together, and we were a symbol of that in our small way. For someone to come in and stop that, it’s like stopping evolution.”

And what does he feel about Bush today, knowing what he knows now? “I still don’t know the details…"

The interruption could not be helped. Why wouldn’t you make it your business to know now?

“I think there will be a time for that when Reggie and I sit down. I won’t talk to anybody else about it. I’ll talk to Reggie — if he wants to talk about it.

“To me it’s like one of your kids screwing up. Does that mean you don’t love them anymore? I’m [ticked off]. I wish I had known, could have done something to correct it, but never had that chance.”

Should he have known?

“You need a lot of help,” he says. “We need help where guys come from and the people around them. In our case it actually took place in San Diego. How would we have ever known those conversations were taking place? They didn’t want us to know, so job accomplished in that respect.”

Next month would’ve marked the 10th anniversary of his hiring at USC to replace Paul Hackett, and remember what that was like? He’s nine games into his return to the NFL, and the Seahawks begin the day huge underdogs to the Saints, but in first place in the NFC West at 5-4.

“We’re having a blast,” he says, while sitting on a couch in his office overlooking Lake Washington, throwing a football to himself, Natalie Merchant singing on the radio and three TVs turned to three events.

“Is this classic for a guy as ADD as I am?” he says, the energizer coach going to turn 60 next year.

Two minutes with him, and it’s like old times, the charisma, the self-confidence and the carefree approach to what everyone else treats so seriously.

Uncle Pete has now brought his plan to Seattle, the one that took root after reading the writings of John Wooden. And he’s having fun, and doesn’t he always, although the NFL frowns on such things.

No regrets about leaving USC. “If I climbed a cool mountain, I wouldn’t have to do it again,” he says.

But he’s here, isn’t he, because he was on the run?

“I didn’t do that,” he says. “I don’t like people saying that. It’s not true. I already had it resolved in my mind there would be some [NCAA] outcome, but no idea they’d make it look so ugly. There was almost an energy to it — something almost vile. There was an agenda — they [the NCAA] wanted to set a tone.

“It was sick,” he says before catching himself and saying, “It made me sick to my stomach.

“We were the best thing to happen to college football in every single way. Everybody was watching because it was so good, and then to get hammered like that…"

We know now Bush was a cheater, and always knew that Athletic Director Mike Garrett was arrogant, thereby ticking off the NCAA. But what about Carroll?

How can you not look upon the excitement he stirred and not say he was one of the best things to ever happen in L.A. sports?

“When someone tells me they had fun because of what we were doing,” he says, and which I did, “it’s the greatest compliment someone could offer.”

“Oh puke,” says the wife, who doesn’t buy anything Uncle Pete has to say, a wonder someone could be so argumentative and remain married all these years.

USC, meanwhile, has gone overboard in wringing the fun out of football, as if that was the problem. The school now treats access to football practices like the underground bunker at the White House.

“For people to judge our practices, in many cases never going to one, it’s a shame,” Uncle Pete says. “The atmosphere there was a gift, for all of us — coaches, players, parents and hundreds of kids who watched. That one I will never figure out.

“It shows you how sick the perspective [the NCAA] got. It’s uneducated. It shows they weren’t onto the truth. They didn’t know what happened, so they tarnished something.”

No one up here cares all that much about the damage done by Bush to USC, but rather what he might do to the Seahawks. A week ago Seattle beat Arizona, after losing the two previous weeks to the Raiders and Giants by a collective score of 74-10.

“The NFL is humbling,” says Uncle Pete, but here he is.

And that’s too bad.

t.j.simers@latimes.com


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