TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Seven years ago, Nick Saban spoke to Lane Kiffin about coming to the University of Alabama as an assistant coach. According to Kiffin, he decided to stay at USC, where the Trojans were coming off a Rose Bowl win, rather than go to a program Saban would be building essentially from the ground up.
If only he had taken the job. Maybe then his long and winding road from the Oakland Raiders to the University of Tennessee and back to USC would have never happened. Maybe then he wouldn't have been fired after three and half seasons in Southern Cal with an underwhelming record and a damaged reputation.
With each turn in his career there was criticism. And on Sunday, more than six months into his tenure as Alabama's offensive coordinator, he acknowledged that he didn't always handle himself well.
"As you make mistakes, the No. 1 thing is you learn from them and not make excuses," he said. "I've made more than anybody, probably.
"To be able to go [through] what I've gone through and still be fortunate before the age of 40 to be here and be an offensive coordinator with Coach Saban at Alabama, you take some time to reflect on that."
Kiffin said he had other opportunities than Alabama.
"This was an opportunity that came about that was easy for me," he said. "There were some conversations about being an assistant coach in the NFL that I was going over.
"I can't imagine a better place in college or the NFL to go to learn from someone who has been so successful and teaches his coaches."
Several times during his 15-minute news conference, Kiffin said just how thankful he was for Saban to bring him into the fold. He said he "always thought this would be a great opportunity if it presented itself," all the while admitting the difference in going from being a head coach to an assistant.
"As far as being a head coach, that's always in your blood and you're competitive," he said of returning to the position. "But this isn't about Lane Kiffin or anything before or where he's going, this is about Alabama and getting started."
In fact, Kiffin said, compared to being a head coach, "This is easy here ... You just come in to learn and be a part of it."
"Having a little time off there after getting fired at USC re-excites you to get back," he said. "Obviously I loved being a head coach. There were a lot of great things about that. But when you step back into a role of being an assistant coach, your focus is so much back on football, on player development ... where as a head coach you're pulled in so many other directions."
Being back in the SEC again, Kiffin was ready to be asked about his tenure at Tennessee and Alabama's upcoming trip to Knoxville this fall. With a smile, he said, "It took a long time for the Knoxville question."
"As far as going back to Tennessee, we had a great year there," he said. "The people were phenomenal. I really loved being there. It was just a unique situation that came about. You can't look back.
"I just don't live that way of looking back and saying, 'Well, should I have left?' I don't live that way."
Kiffin said his goal at Alabama isn't to reinvent the wheel. The Crimson Tide are coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 2008, but are ranked No. 2 in the Amway Coaches' Poll.
"The last thing we would want to do is come in here and change a bunch of stuff," he said. "As I mentioned before, it's a great offensive staff that's been together here and had a great run last year on offense and a number of players had great success last year.
"So really we're just coming in and looking at some things, very small changes, to make sure at the end of the day we're putting our great players in the best position to utilize their talents."