Southern California football coach Lane Kiffin didn't take any of his patented potshots at Tennessee when he left Knoxville last month.
He passed on another opportunity Tuesday during an interview with the News Sentinel.
Yet Kiffin seemed confused - and perhaps a bit dismayed - by UT athletic director Mike Hamilton's public claim last month that Kiffin wasn't a "good cultural fit" at UT.
"I don't really know exactly what that means," said Kiffin, who was UT's coach for just 14 months. "I don't think at the end of day that has anything to do with whether you score points or whether you win games. Where you're from? I don't know. That's just my opinion.
"Is Nick Saban from Alabama? Is Urban Meyer from Florida? Those are two of the best coaches in the country. So I don't think that really means anything."
For the record, Saban is from West Virginia and Meyer is from Ohio. And while Kiffin was born in Nebraska, most of his coaching experience occurred at USC, where he spent six seasons before opportunities arose with the Oakland Raiders, then at UT.
The always confident 34-year-old coach may have left UT jilted when the Trojans came calling, but admitted he had some regrets about his departure that led to orange-clad fans burning mattresses and Kiffin T-shirts just outside UT's athletic complex.
"I was put in a tough situation timingwise, which was no one's fault," said Kiffin, who was in Florida at an SEC meeting when USC called him about replacing Pete Carroll. "I couldn't get to my team right away. The news breaks somehow. I wish that could have been different, but I couldn't control that. "
Kiffin also lamented the minute-long press conference he held for local media the night before he departed Knoxville. Kiffin said he planned to talk longer, but a disagreement between UT's sports information department and a local television station ended any chance of a full-length conversation.
"I really tried to do the right thing with the media there," Kiffin said. "When you look around the nation, when coaches leave places, they don't address the media at the places they're leaving. They usually talk to their team and they get out of there.
"That kind of backfired on me. I guess I would have done that different and do what everybody else does, and just takeoff."
Eventually Kiffin and his immediate family did take off - without David Reaves. Reaves, who was quarterbacks coach and the brother of Kiffin's wife, Layla, told the News Sentinel that he heard of the hiring on television, not from his family.
Moreover, Kiffin did not hire Reaves for a position at USC. He instead hired former Memphis offensive coordinator Clay Helton to handle quarterbacks.
"When you take a job, so many things go into your staff structure and makeup of it (such as) the direction sometimes that an athletic director or president wants you to go as well," Kiffin said. "There are a lot of things that went into that decision that were not based solely on business at all."
Kiffin, who took four assistant coaches with him to USC, maintained that Reaves' exclusion from the move had nothing to do with his potential knowledge of two hostesses traveling to Duncan, S.C., to visit with two UT prospects, a likely NCAA secondary violation.
"I don't think that he did," Kiffin said. "I have no reason to think that he did. Me being the head coach and monitoring the whole issue, I doubt that he did at all."
Kiffin recently said on national television that he and his family had received death threats from fans irate about his departure. For the most part, he said, those threats have stopped.
"We still get an occasional fax or a message sent this way," Kiffin said, "but those are a handful of people that I don't think represent the majority of people there, who are great people."
Kiffin didn't offer much when asked about his replacement: Derek Dooley.
"I don't know Coach Dooley at all," he said. "I don't believe I've ever met him. I'm sure he'll do a wonderful job there and keep Tennessee rolling."
In Kiffin's one season at UT, the Vols went 7-6. With several key players gone, they'll face a tough challenge to post a winning record in 2010.
Yet Kiffin has no doubt that Dooley is better off than when Kiffin replaced former coach Phillip Fulmer.
"I know this: From the day that I got there to the day that we left, that roster was drastically better than it was," Kiffin said. "Really at the end of the day, that's my job as a head coach, is to improve the roster and improve what the kids are doing in the classroom.
"And we did that as well."