By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Larry Smith has come full circle.
He came to Arizona as head coach in 1980 after a stint at Tulane and turned a young, untested team into winners each of the six years he was in Tucson.
With that track record, USC came knocking, and Smith answered the door of big-time college football. He found success in Los Angeles, but not enough. Trojan supporters had visions of national championships, and the three Rose Bowls and five bowl games overall that Smith led the school to did not measure up to their expectations. So in recognition of that, he was fired.
Now a year later, Smith is coach of Missouri, a young, untested team much like the one he started out with at Arizona.
"It is very close (to starting out at Arizona)," he says. "The talent level, what's been achieved here are very close."
Very close cannot be used to describe Smith and his relationship with USC.
"Everyone's bitter when they get fired," Smith says. "That's part of coaching. I had a very comfortable job at U of A in a place that I enjoyed living. I took a shot at a pressure-packed situation and we did big things."
The pain that Smith still feels was evidenced by his inability to watch USC play on television during his year out of coaching.
"I never watched them," he says. "I couldn't do that. I knew all those kids well. I could never watch them play."
During his time away from the sideline, Smith tried not to think about the game. But it was tough to do, especially in the fall.
"I was right there in Tucson," says Smith. "It was tough. During the early part of the season, I was avoiding football so I wouldn't miss it. But I was missing it anyway. I was just waiting for something good to come along, then the Missouri job came open. I got excited about it and they offered me the job."
Despite his excitement about his job, Smith, who spent time with current UA head coach Dick Tomey during his summer away from coaching, has kept his focus.
"We're just getting started," Smith says. "My expectations aren't any further than the first game (Tulsa, Sept. 3). We're expecting to win."
Another casualty in Smith's departure from USC was that his son, Corby, a quarterback with Southern Cal, decided to transfer to Iowa after his dad was fired.
"(The firing) was a big part of it," Smith says. "He felt that after all had happened, he just wanted to move on."
While Smith has moved on, he still keeps tabs on Arizona.
"I think they will definitely be a favorite to take it all," Smith says. "The defense is as strong as it's ever been and the offense will be stronger."
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