Mitch Chortkoff, Mirror sports writer
Three years ago, Sam Anno was being considered for a coaching position on Pete Carroll’s staff at USC but didn’t make the move.
“The timing wasn’t right,’’ said Anno. “It is now.’’
As a result, the former Santa Monica High star who played at USC, then spent seven years in the National Football League, was named a graduate assistant for the Trojans last week. Anno will focus on special teams and the kicking game, but will have other duties too.
“Three years ago, when Pete Carroll came to USC, there was a chance I could be on his staff but I was doing well in private business and wasn’t ready to pull the trigger,’’ said Anno. “Coaching in college requires a lot of time.
“But it pulled at me and I came to realize if I didn’t do it, I might have regrets.’’
The connection was that Carroll was an assistant coach with the Minnesota Vikings one season when Anno played there. A friendship began.
“When Pete was hired as head coach at USC and a lot of people didn’t like the selection I went to Heritage Hall three years ago just to tell people he was good,’’ said Anno. “I went just to welcome him, but a few months later we discussed the possibility of me joining the staff.’’
While Anno decided against it, Carroll began a reign that has produced two national championships. However, an unusually high number of Carroll’s assistants recently left for other jobs, leading to a complete overhaul of the coaching staff.
“It seems like everyone got what they wanted,’’ said Anno of the mass exodus.
Anno played at Samohi in 1981 and ’82, then was a linebacker at USC the next four years.
He was NFL Special Teams Player of the Year one season and upon retirement joined Norm Lacy on the coaching staff at St. Monica. The team won a CIF championship and Lacy then completed his head coaching career at Samohi, winning another CIF championship in 2001.
When Tebb Kusserow retired following 18 years as Samohi’s head coach in 1990, Lacy seemed the logical replacement, but was bypassed.
As Samohi floundered for several years, Lacy accepted the St. Monica job, gave the school its one and only CIF football championship ever, then came back to Samohi with the shocking news Kusserow would come out of retirement to be his offensive co-ordinator. And the fiery Anno, who could pass on the benefits of his football experience, was on the staff too.
Lacy coached only three years at Samohi. He is now a full-time teacher and the school’s golf coach.
Anno says he learned a lot from Lacy.
“I learned about preparation and intensity,’’ said Anno. “He could dissect every aspect of an opponent’s weakness. And at playoff time it was a new level and his players responded.
“I think he came back to Samohi to take care of some unfinished business and he really did it.’’
Anno is outspoken about Samohi passing up Lacy in 1990 and the subsequent developments.
“When Samohi passed him up, it was an outlandish political debacle,’’` he said. “One of the worst in the history of Santa Monica sports.’’
Today Anno is preparing to take some graduate courses, a condition of his position on the USC coaching staff.
This 6-foot-3, 235-pound athlete admits to being emotional, too.
“I know I’ll have to find my niche, but I’m like a kid again,’’ he said.