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TROJANS INTERVIEW HACKETT; USC COUNSEL MAY HIRE EX-ASSISTANT.

Byline: Scott Wolf Daily News Staff Writer

Former University of Pittsburgh head coach and current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Paul Hackett is being interviewed by USC as a possible successor to coach John Robinson.

Hackett met with USC general counsel Robert Lane on Monday night in Kansas City, where he could be offered the job, according to sources.

``I really can't talk about it,'' Lane said from Kansas City late Monday night. ``There's really nothing to talk about.''

Lane handles all contracts for USC coaches and is close to the football program. Lane would not say how long he would be in Kansas City.

Hackett was a USC assistant from 1976-80 and served as the Trojans' offensive coordinator, ironically under Robinson. He was on the staff at the same time as Bob Toledo, now head man at UCLA. Hackett later worked for the San Francisco 49ers, where he was the offensive coordinator.

``He's seen as a USC guy,'' a source said. ``He was a candidate for the job when they hired Larry Smith and a candidate when they hired Ted Tollner.''

Hackett is being wooed by USC because he is famous for running the West Coast offense, and he would have the necessary ``USC credentials'' to please boosters and alumni.

The offense he is running for the 12-3 Chiefs is similar to what USC tried to install this season.

``They wouldn't even have to change the offense's terminology,'' the source said.

The only negative is that Hackett was fired by Pitt and his tenure as a college coach was viewed as a failure. If he did become USC's coach, he would probably have to hire coaches familiar with recruiting in Southern California.

USC athletic director Mike Garrett could not be reached for comment Monday night.

A Kansas City Chiefs spokesperson said Monday night that he was unaware of any contact between USC and Hackett.

If Hackett did accept the job, there could be a potential problem with the Chiefs over a starting date. Kansas City is about to enter the playoffs and is considered a strong contender to make the Super Bowl. But USC is under a tight deadline.

Garrett has said he will make his decision on Robinson by Wednesday, but it is also known he would like to have a successor lined up at the same time he makes his decision on Robinson.

``That's the USC way,'' another source said.

Garrett said he will meet with Robinson either today or Wednesday, but no meeting had been scheduled as of Monday night.

Hackett makes sense for USC because he is a much more realistic choice than some of the coaches the university has pursued in the past few weeks. Tennessee Oilers coach Jeff Fisher and Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt have both rebuffed overtures from USC and sources said the Trojans have also contacted Seattle Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson.

Former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz was previously interviewed, but a knowledgeable source said Holtz would not become USC's next head coach. Holtz has denied being offered the USC job.

USC administrators are reportedly beginning to lose patience with the prolonged coaching decision, but Garrett remains firm with his Wednesday deadline on making a decision. University president Steven Sample, who has been nearly invisible during the decision-making process, is said to prefer a ``Joe Paterno-type'' as the Trojans' next coach, but hiring a big-name appears unlikely.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 16, 1997
Words:567
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