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Originally published July 16, 2010 at 9:06 PM | Page modified July 17, 2010 at 2:27 PM

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Danny O'Neil

Pete Carroll's story looks different amid USC fallout

The national image that made his hiring as Seahawks coach so noteworthy has been altered by the sanctions the NCAA levied against his former school.

Seattle Times NFL reporter

The story has changed.

Not for Pete Carroll's book "Win Forever," which was released this week. That 223-page attempt to distill and describe the essence of USC's success the previous nine years under Carroll remains the same. It is a well-intentioned project, a self-help guide to achievement, whose proceeds go to the charity A Better L.A.

But the story of Carroll's return to the NFL is seen differently now. The national image that made his hiring as Seahawks coach so noteworthy has been altered by the sanctions the NCAA levied against his former school. And right now he is promoting a book that touts the reasons for USC's unprecedented success at precisely the time that success is being questioned.

The promotional blitz has included book signings and interviews. He started in New York and moved on to Southern California. He stopped by ESPN and the NFL Network. He was featured in a taped segment on this week's HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."

None of Carroll's answers have been new or particularly revealing. He still says the sanctions were too severe; still denies any knowledge Reggie Bush was receiving impermissible benefits at the time he was enrolled; and still feels oh-so terrible this has happened.

But those responses haven't satisfied everyone. In the HBO segment, Andrea Kremer asked bluntly, just how did this all happen?

"It just did," Carroll told Kremer. "We didn't have the awareness. We didn't have the awareness to know. I wish I would have the awareness that I have now, going back."

Kremer's interview was tough and at times tense, and resulted in a tug of war with Carroll. She pointed out the car Bush received during his sophomore year.

"Have you ever seen the car?" Carroll asked. "It was a Chevy."

Yes, a black Chevy, but also fancy enough to be featured on the cover of a car magazine. Carroll said there was a compliance procedure that was followed after he purchased the car, and HBO's report stated the compliance procedure wasn't followed correctly.

The tension in the interview became clear when Kremer queried Carroll on his ignorance about the living situation of Bush's parents.

"This is your best player with the most to lose," she said.

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"It's easy for you to ask these questions in this manner right now," Carroll responded. "Matt Leinart was our best player. He was the Heisman Trophy winner."

But Bush was a heralded recruit, someone who was renowned as a freshman and on the cover of USC's media guide as a sophomore. He wasn't just another player.

None of this will have much of anything to do with what happens when Carroll begins his first training camp as Seahawks coach, which is what people in Seattle will care about.

This isn't a city mourning USC's probation or demanding explanations. And when Carroll discusses his book in a Seattle Chamber of Commerce event at noon Friday at the Westin Hotel, the questions won't be about USC nearly so much as the Seahawks.

But back in January, owner Paul Allen went and hired a coach with a national profile. Carroll was a rock star of a college coach who had finally been lured back to the NFL after teams like Atlanta and Miami had previously failed to land him. Satellite trucks parked out front to broadcast the news conference live. That hadn't happened one year earlier for Jim Mora's first news conference as Seahawks coach.

Carroll remains a national story. It's just that the national story line has changed.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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About Danny O'Neil

Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
doneil@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2364

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