Lane Kiffin said all the right things Saturday in his first interview since being fired as USC head coach.
Kiffin defended his tenure with the Trojans that ended five games into his fourth season, again pointing to a limited roster because of NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions as the main obstacle he was unable to overcome.
"I think there were some really good things we did in our time there," Kiffin told "College GameDay." "Once we got there, we were handed down what a lot of people considered to be the death penalty. We were able to manage through that and have a great year at 10-2, and then it fell apart there towards the end.
"To be 28-15, there's some good stuff in there."
Kiffin said it was "very difficult" to watch USC's 38-31 win over Arizona on Thursday night, its first game since his dismissal.
"It was like watching someone else raise your kids," Kiffin said. "You love those kids and want so much more for those kids, but at the same time, you know they are in great hands.
"To see the way they played the other night, it was awesome. I was so proud of those kids and that coaching staff, and for Coach O (interim coach Ed Orgeron) to get that win like that, it was really great to see."
After the game, quarterback Cody Kessler praised the new energy Orgeron brought to the program and said he was the kind of coach "you will fricking go to war for every time," which seemed to be a direct shot at Kiffin's seemingly disengaged manner.
Kiffin said he was fine with Kessler's remarks and even received a text from the redshirt sophomore Friday.
"Cody is a wonderful kid," Kiffin said. "I would expect nothing less from those kids than to support the next coach and the next one after that."
Kiffin later served an analyst for ESPN's wildly popular pre-game show, breaking down the Oregon-Washington game, and seemed comfortable in that role. A stint on TV or as an assistant coach have been suggested as the best way to rehabilitate Kiffin's battered image.
Kiffin didn't give any indication of what his next step might be, other than to say his freewheeling, trash-talking approach that defined his lone season at Tennessee is long gone.
"You are always trying to figure yourself out," Kiffin said. "Different things that I have done that I wouldn't do again have followed me, and that's the price that you pay when you make mistakes early on."