DESTIN, Fla. - Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin has expanded his oratorical repertoire. It now includes understatement.
For example, take his opening comments to a gathering of 20-or-so media-types at the SEC spring meetings Tuesday.
"We've been here about six months," he said. "It has been a real exciting six months for our staff and our program."
He's a first-year college head coach at a football program that just went 5-7. Yet he's a national story.
The story continued at the SEC meetings, and it had virtually nothing to do with his youth, his famous football father (defensive coordinator Monte), his NFL connection, his Southern Cal connection or getting hired and fired by Al Davis.
The story is all about what he has said, not what he has done. It's about his potshots at SEC coaches and programs (Florida and Urban Meyer, in particular). It's about insults and apologies.
It's about the plan.
First question Tuesday: Do you subscribe to the theory that any news is good news?
"As you look at this job, you have to have a national presence," Kiffin said. "We're not fortunate to be able to sit in our state and go sign 20 or 25 players.
"When you come in as a head coach, you have a specific plan. This (program) needed to have a spark immediately as far as national exposure."
The man behind the plan and the spark said he doesn't understand why anyone caught up in the collateral damages would be offended.
"I would expect everyone (in the SEC coaching fraternity) to be professional," he said. "I wouldn't think there would be any hard feelings. I just talked to Coach (Steve) Spurrier coming out of the elevator (implying that it was an amicable encounter)."
As Kiffin characterized his plan, he sounded quite professional himself. He's just doing what he feels is best for the program, has great respect for the other coaches in the league, expects to get along fine with his peers once they get to know one another, and blah-blah-blah.
I don't doubt there's some sort of a plan or that it's working famously. But I also believe there's a prankster as well as a planner behind it, and both wear a deadpan expression.
As the questions continued from different angles but from the same perspective, Kiffin the prankster couldn't resist: "I did ask for adjoining rooms (at the hotel) with Coach Meyer."
There was laughter all around, especially from the television cameraman, who had the sound byte he cherished. And the guy behind it surely was laughing on the inside. Forget the plan. Kiffin enjoys this, just as Spurrier once did.
So what if Spurrier managed to win a championship first. That's a mere technicality.
Bottom line: No other coach in SEC history has created so many sparks before he coached his first conference game (No, I haven't forgotten about Alabama's Mike Price, but that was just a one-night stand, so to speak).
You could better appreciate Kiffin's impact by tagging along with the media, which didn't just ask Kiffin about Kiffin. It also asked the other SEC football coaches about Kiffin.
Meyer, whom Kiffin jokingly accused of cheating, had no comment when asked about Kiffin, emphasizing that he wanted to talk about his team.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who was an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars when Kiffin was a quality-control coach there, said he didn't see the controversial side to Kiffin when they were on the same staff. He seemed amused by the headlines Kiffin has generated in half a year at UT.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was asked if coaches file away derogatory comments from opposing coaches.
"You can't help it," Nutt said. "They may not say it, but it's in the back of your mind. Your players probably know more about what is said."
Kiffin has a different audience in mind.
"Looking at kids nowadays, I think they respond to confidence a lot," he said. "The kids we've signed have talked a lot about the confidence of our staff (about how) we're not backing down."
Not backing down? That's an understatement.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.