2007-2008 NBA Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant won every award imaginable as a freshman at Texas, signed a Nike deal in 2007, has a salary of $4,484,040 for the 2008-2009 season and, at 20 years old, is something like 4-6 months younger than me. As for myself... I know someone who wears Nikes; I know that 4,484,040 is a number; and I like to watch basketball when I'm not doing homework or at my part-time job.
I now know what it's like to watch someone who's younger than you make a fortune and re-write the record books. But this is expected of athletes. It's inevitable. The next batch of great athletes are breaching 'greatness' far sooner than the 'greatest' did. Coaching, however, is fairly static. Yes, there are more coaching changes now than there were in the distant past, but the long and somewhat tedious climb up the coaching ladder has been an established expectation for some time. As the title of this post indicates, there is one extraordinary exception whose climb is of endless fascination to me... Lane Kiffin.
You wouldn't be too far off if you thought Kiffin made a name for himself overnight. It was only 10 years after graduating from college that he became the head coach of a NFL franchise.
A Miniature Timeline:
1975: (May 9) Kiffin is born (approx. 0 years old)
1994: graduates from high school in Minnesota (19 years old)
1994: enrolls in Fresno State University where he plays basketball, baseball and backup QB for the Fresno State Bulldogs (19 years old)
1997: gives up playing football his senior season; becomes a Student Assistant Coach at Fresno State (22 years old)
1998: graduates from Fresno State (23 years old)
1999: works as a Graduate Assistant at Colorado State University for one year; works with the offensive line
2000: works with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a Quality Control Assistant for one year 2001: hired as a Tight Ends Coach at University of Southern California (USC)
2002: becomes the Wide Receivers Coach at USC
2004: becomes Passing Game Coordinator; retains Wide Receivers Coach position at USC
2005: is promoted to Offensive Coordinator at USC and becomes Recruiting Coordinator; retains position as Wide Receivers Coach
2007: (January 23) hired as the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders; the youngest Head Coach in NFL history. (age 31)
2008: (September 30) Lane Kiffin is fired as Raiders' Head Coach.
2008: named Head Coach of the Tennessee Volunteers football program (age 33)
He surpassed many of his former bosses in his quick climb up the coaching ladder. For instance, when he was a Student Assistant Coach at Fresno State, his position coach was Jeff Tedford, current Head Coach at the University of California.
From '93 to '97, Tedford was the Offensive Coordinator at Fresno State where he coached Kiffin. Then from 1998 to 2001, Tedford helped build Oregon's football program as its Offensive Coordinator. Meanwhile Kiffin was in the fast lane: he worked with a pro team and was hired by Pete Carroll to work as a Positions Coach with the best college football program in the country.
Since 2002, Tedford's been the Head Coach at Cal, and has won two Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards, so I don't mean to undermine his success. However, Tedford was in his early-40s when he won his first Coach of the Year award, and that's entirely my point.
At age 33, Kiffin will be the youngest Head Coach in Division-1 football. I'm not saying he'll be a great college coach (although when he was the Recruiting Coordinator at USC the team had the #1 recruitment class all 3 years) but I think he's capable of turning around an already talented Tennessee team (ranked 18th in preseason polls last year) after a shocking 5-7 finish last season. He's positioned to haul in a SEC Coach of the Year award in the near future, and he will do it in his 30s.
1997–1998 Fresno State (Positions)
1999 Colorado State (Positions)
2000 Jacksonville Jaguars (Asst)
2001–2006 USC (Positions/OC)
2007–2008 Oakland Raiders (Head Coach)
2009–Present Tennessee (Head Coach)