Larry Smith dies at 68

The Trojan family lost a member today as former USC head coach Larry Smith died at the age of 68 after suffering from chronic lymphatic leukemia.

Smith was reviled by many USC fans at the end of his six-year tenure, but in retrospect he was a much better coach than some realized. The USC program that Smith took over in 1987 had slipped somewhat under Ted Tollner. After leaving Arizona, Smith helped bring USC football back to a level of prominence, going to three consecutive Rose Bowls. His 1988 Trojan team, quarterbacked by Rodney Peete, defeated Troy Aikman's UCLA Bruin squad in one of the most memorable games in the rivalry's history. In 1989, Smith coached a freshman QB named Todd Marinovich to a Rose Bowl title.

But things seemed to unravel after that game. The following year, Marinovich and the Trojans lost to Michigan State in the John Hancock Bowl. Marinovich squabbled with Smith after the quarterback skipped class and started using drugs. He was suspended from the team multiple times and left USC after his red-shirt sophomore season -- something that no one did back then. Without Marinovich, Smith's Trojans were forced to use Reggie Perry at quarterback (Smith actually considered having Perry share the position with Curtis Conway), and they struggled mightily in 1991. By 1992, a young quarterback named Rob Johnson was giving Trojan fans hope, but USC lost to UCLA and Notre Dame to close out the season. They entered a Freedom Bowl game against Fresno State that turned out to be Smith's undoing. The Bulldogs won 24-7, and while they had a talented team that included future NFL players like Trent Dilfer and Lorenzo Neal, the loss was unforgivable to most USC fans.

Smith would go onto coach at Missouri, where he had 7 up-and-down seasons. His 1997 Tiger team should have beaten then-undefeated Nebraska, if not for an infamous kicked ball, but Smith finished his tenure at Missouri with 2 losing seasons.

Overall though Smith brought great talent to the Trojan program, including Conway, Keyshawn Johnson, Johnnie Morton, Willie McGinest, and Tony Boselli. He helped create some lasting memories, and if not for Todd Marinovich's problems and an unfortunate loss to Fresno State, he might have coached USC a bit longer.

January 28, 2008 7:43 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor
 

© 2003-2014   •  About LA Observed  •  Contact the editor
LA Biz Observed
2:07 PM Sat | The funeral for Mark Lacter will be held Sunday, Nov. 24 at 12 noon at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles 90045. Reception to follow.
Native Intelligence
Jon Christensen and Mark Gold | Natural history museums grew out of the "Wunderkammer"--a device for cultivating wonder in the face of the amazing diversity and weirdness of the world, but also for discovery, of the new, the unknown, of patterns, and laws. The LA River has become a kind of cabinet of wonders for Los Angeles: a site for thinking about and making sense of nature and culture in the city.
Phil Wallace | The Dodgers do need help in the back of their rotation. But giving up a top prospect for an ace like David Price would be a huge mistake.
Al Martinez | Martinez lies abed craving a hot, sweet thing right then and there, but Cinelli who lies next to him can always figure him out and suggests that he might just relax and think of puppies instead.
Visiting Blogger | Yahoo finally changed its incorrect info on his client -- after he tweeted CEO Marissa Mayer -- but Google still lists the wrong name, address and industry. "Google plainly does not care," says our guest blogger.
Phil Wallace | Without a coach or a competitive roster, the Lakers seem to have no vision for the future.
Gary Leonard | Take My Picture Gary Leonard is a regular weekly feature of LA Observed.
Jenny Burman | "Veronica Street" is a new novel of Los Angeles by Jenny Burman, serialized each week at LA Observed. Today: In bed Ayla and Caleb were in sync, but upright they existed in different dimensions of time and space.
Bill Boyarsky
The latest version of the mayoral web site, Data LA, is greatly improved from its shaky first edition. Even modestly computer-savvy Angelenos get enough information to come to their own conclusions about the mayor and the rest of city government.
Jenny Burman
Before I lived in Echo Park, there was a tiny 1920s bungalow-cottage-standalone house on N. Occidental in Silver Lake. I...
Here in Malibu
It's a shock to see the Central Valley these days.