If your image of a football coach is of a tough guy with a permanent scowl on his face, then you haven't met Pete Carroll. He's the coach of the University Of Southern California Trojans, one of the top college teams in the nation. He's also upbeat, optimistic, and seems to have a permanent smile on his face. And no wonder: he has the highest winning percentage of any active coach in Division 1 football.
As Byron Pitts first reported last December, Carroll took a once great college team that had been on a 20-year slump and turned it around, winning two national championships. If you're a football fan, you may already know all that, but there's another side of Pete Carroll that you probably don't know. He's taken his coaching ability far beyond the football field, to a place you might never expect.
He's been called the "Prince of L.A.," and Pete Carroll's "castle" is the L.A. Coliseum, the home field to the University of Southern California Trojans. It's where 93,000 loyal subjects bleed red and gold on Saturdays. It's a uniquely American ritual played out with more glitz, glamour and pageantry than almost anywhere else in the country.
"This is how we like it. This is how we want it to be. We don't want it any different than this. I want it as hyped and as big time as possible. And I want to show that we know how to deal with it and handle it and still play beautifully," Carroll explained.
The Trojans played well enough on the day 60 Minutes filmed there to beat up cross country rival Ohio State. They did it with a stifling defense, despite some unusual distractions.
"During the game, when it was still undecided, one of your players was posing for a picture with Arnold Schwarzenegger," Pitts pointed out.
"The Governator stepped in. I heard he was there. I didn't get to see him. Well, how do you turn down the governor? I got I got some power over it but not that much," Carroll joked.
"But it's during the game," Pitts remarked.
"Yeah, well I didn't know that happened. Who did it?" Carroll asked.
Make no mistake, it's that unconventional, laid back California style that's part of Pete Carroll's success. He's produced three Heisman trophy winners, 53 NFL players, and 33 All-Americans in just eight years. In the high stakes, high stress business of college football, where most coaches are screamers, perpetual drill sergeants forever in a bad mood, Pete Carroll says he is having the time of his life.
"One of your rivals, Charlie Weiss, the coach of Notre Dame, said on this program, on 60 Minutes that all coaches are miserable. You miserable?" Pitts asked.
"No. I never have been miserable," Carroll replied. "I keep thinking day to day, that somethin' good's just about happen, you know. And so, that mentality, whether I'm in a game or coachin' in the midst of the season, I don't know how to think otherwise. And that doesn't take you to misery."
It did take him to another win over Ohio State.
Pete Carroll's been a champion at USC, but it wasn't always that way. He worked as an assistant coach for 17 years before a less than impressive - some have even called disastrous - run as an NFL head coach.
Carroll acknowledged that he loved the NFL, but that they didn't love him back. "They didn't like me too much," he told Pitts.
He became head coach of the New York Jets in 1994. He was fired after one season. His reaction to losing his job?
"You know I got fired at the Jets, I was, 'This is the best thing that ever happened to me. That was my first thought,'" Carroll said. "I know how crazy that sounds, but that's what went through my mind, you know, and it's because I had three years left in my contract too. You know that has something to do with it."
Carroll tried again with the New England Patriots in 1997. He got fired there after he took a Super Bowl contender straight to the basement in three seasons.
He didn't look back, and he didn't give up. Instead he convinced the administration at USC to hire him as a college coach. Alumni and fans hated the idea.
"I was kinda like that big bomb that dropped here on you when I arrived. You know, the, I guess the emails and the faxes and all that stuff were burning up the machines here," Carroll recalled.