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Ed Orgeron is right at home when it comes to coaching LSU

Ed Orgeron
Ed Orgeron went 5-2 as LSU’s interim coach this season.
(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

Ed Orgeron leaned back into the big, brown leather couch, placed his right arm behind his head and smiled as he took a sip from a silver can of Diet Coke.

A few hours earlier Saturday in Baton Rouge, Orgeron had dropped the interim tag and was introduced as Louisiana State’s football coach.

Now he was at home and in his living room, switching a wall-mounted big-screen television from the USC-Notre Dame game to Alabama-Auburn.

“It worked out fantastic,” he said, his gravelly voice belying his emotion.

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Two years after he was passed over by USC in favor of Steve Sarkisian, Orgeron survived LSU’s pursuit of Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman to land his dream job in his home state.

“I couldn’t see it when that happened at USC,” said Orgeron, wearing a white LSU pullover, khaki shorts and running shoes. “Besides the death of my father, that was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. And now it turned out to open up this door.”

Orgeron, 55, got the LSU job after taking over for the fired Les Miles. Orgeron went 5-2 as interim coach, including Thursday’s victory over Texas A&M.

On Saturday, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva introduced Orgeron by saying, “It came down to getting the best coach.”

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He also said, “We knew that Coach O is never going to play games with us. We know where Coach O’s heart is. We know where his love is. We know where his passion is.”

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will remain with the Tigers, Orgeron said. He also said he would pursue “the best coordinator in America to run the offense.”

Asked if he meant Lane Kiffin, the former USC coach who has revived his career by going through the Nick Saban car wash at Alabama, Orgeron stared for several moments and then declined to comment.

But there is no doubt that he has targeted Kiffin, setting up a possible dream matchup against the Crimson Tide if Saban replaces Kiffin with Sarkisian.

LSU football Coach Ed Orgeron and wife Kelly welcome a reporter to their home on Saturday in Mandeville, La.
LSU football Coach Ed Orgeron and wife Kelly welcome a reporter to their home on Saturday in Mandeville, La.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times )

This will be Orgeron’s second stint as head coach. After seven years as a USC assistant, he went 10-25 as head coach at Mississippi in 2005-2007 before he was fired. He had a stint as an assistant for the New Orleans Saints before joining Kiffin’s staff at Tennessee and then returning with him to USC.

USC players were in tears in December 2013 when former athletic director Pat Haden chose Sarkisian over Orgeron, who had replaced the fired Kiffin.

On Saturday, congratulatory texts from former USC players were among the 650 that Orgeron said had flooded his phone.

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“Is that crazy?” his wife Kelly said from the kitchen. “650 texts!”

Orgeron formally interviewed for the permanent job Friday, going into a meeting with Alleva armed with two binders that detailed his plan moving forward.

“I came out of there knowing we made some ground,” Orgeron said. “I came out of there knowing there were still some people to talk to. And I came out of there knowing it was going to be a fight to the end.”

Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll followed up with a phone call to Alleva, endorsing Orgeron.

“Pete really helped,” Orgeron said. “We kept on competing.”

Still, Orgeron said he went to bed Friday night unsure of what would transpire.

“Why are you looking like that?” his wife asked. “You’re going to wake up tomorrow morning and you’re going to be the coach at LSU.”

Orgeron said he received a text from a friend at 1:30 a.m., that said Herman might be headed to Texas.

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At around 5:30, he just missed a call from Alleva. Orgeron quickly called him back.

“Hey Joe,” Orgeron said .

“How are you doing this morning” Alleva asked.

“It’s great to hear your voice,” Orgeron replied, and Alleva asked him to meet a few hours later on campus.

“When I got there, he said, “You want this job, or not?’” Orgeron said, laughing.

The two men talked and Orgeron then met with the athletic board before he was introduced as the Tigers new coach.

Orgeron said he was happy for USC and for Trojans Coach Clay Helton.

“I’m grateful everything happened the way it did now,” Orgeron said. “As much as I loved USC, I’m home with my family and my kids representing LSU.

“The interim job at USC got me ready for this one. I was able to become a better coach. Being back home is special.”

Orgeron showed a visitor to the door and then said goodbye in the driveway. He had to get up early Sunday to start working on recruiting.

“You know me,” he said, “I’m going to hit the road as hard as I can.

“Yeah, baby! It’s time to get to work!”

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesklein


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