Ellis Johnson says it was 'never going to work' at Southern Miss
Posted by: Josh Kendall on December 28, 2012
Ellis Johnson doesn't sound like a man bitter about being dismissed after one season as the head coach at Southern Miss. In fact, Johnson himself believes his tenure "was probably never going to work," he said Thursday night in an interview with SportsTalkSC in Columbia, S.C.
"It was a bump in the road on a 32-year-old career, but what I wanted to do was not going to fit what they wanted," Johnson said.
The longtime defensive assistant around the South was 0-12 in his only season at the helm, and he refused to make offseason changes dictated by the administration, he said.
"What I wanted to do and what they wanted me to do was irreconcilable," he said. "I refused to fire some of the guys they wanted fired. It was more of a send the message type thing and I didn't think it was going to affect our issues so I refused to do it. I thought I was the right guy at the right place but the wrong time. I wish all the best for Southern Miss."
Injuries and inexperience were the biggest issues for the Golden Eagles struggles, but the school's revolving door at the top didn't help his case, Johnson said.
"Probably before I coached my second season I would have worked for three presidents and three athletic directors. It was musical chairs with the leadership there and that's probably enough said about that," he said. "We were decimated with injuries with an already inexperienced football team. That's really something I've never been through before, but at the end the day, it's the head coach's job to find a way to get through that and find some wins and we just didn't get it done."
Johnson was asked if such a disastrous season affected his faith in his own ability.
"Not at all," he said. "If you're a 37-year-old coach and that's your stepping stone job, it would be a big disappointment, maybe a cliff, but for me it was kind of going to be a stopping point. I was very comfortable (at South Carolina), loved coach (Steve) Spurrier, loved being in Columbia, S.C. Had a great job. I was just looking at the Southern Miss job as something I wanted to do for six to 10 years and finish up my career."
Instead, he's now at Auburn after picking the Tigers over two other suitors, he said. Johnson heaped praise on his new boss, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
"I think you could make the argument he may be the hottest offensive coach in America today, and you'd probably win that argument on a lot of counts," he said.
Malzahn has completed hiring his assistant coaches but has not announced all the moves, Johnson said.
Josh Kendall is a staff writer for CoachingSearch.com and has covered the SEC for more than 15 years for papers such as the Athens Banner-Herald, Macon Telegraph, and The State. He’s the father of two boys who he’s hoping don’t inherit his wide receiver frame and offensive guard feet. Follow @EyeOnCoaches on twitter and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org