HOOVER, Al. - Ten years. Where did they go?
"He won a SHARE of a national championship," Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron said at the 2007 Southeastern Conference Media Days in a corrective tone.
He was answering a question about new Alabama coach Nick Saban, who had won the 2003 national title at LSU, according to the final Coaches poll as it won the Bowl Championship Series national championship game over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. But USC, where Orgeron was the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, finished No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
Saban would go on to win sole national championships at Alabama in 2009, '11, '12 and '15. And Orgeron got fired from Ole Miss a few months later in 2007 after a 3-9 season that included an 0-8 finish in the SEC. It was his third losing season in three years, following 3-8 and 4-8 campaigns that included 1-7 and 2-6 SEC marks.
Then a few weeks later, he watched as Coach Les Miles and the school he fell in love with as a boy, the school from his home state - LSU - won the BCS national championship with a victory over Ohio State.
He knew he was in trouble that July -- a decade ago.
"Whatever it is, I'm not going to make any more excuses," Orgeron said of his troubled offense that had two coordinators in three years at the time. "We don't have any more time to figure it out."
And they didn't.
What followed for Orgeron was an odyssey of three assistant coaching jobs in three years with the New Orleans Saints, Tennessee and USC, where he got a chance to be a head coach again. But the interim position was not made permanent despite a mostly impressive 6-2 season in 2013. Then he took a year off in 2014 before Miles hired him to be his defensive line coach at LSU in 2015. By the fall of 2016, Orgeron replaced the fired Miles. He went 5-2 as interim coach, got the permanent job, beat No. 13 Louisville in the Citrus Bowl to go to 6-2, and the rest could be his history.
It's 10 years later, and Orgeron is back at SEC Media Days as LSU's permanent head coach.
"I thank God," Orgeron said when his 10-year anniversary was brought up in the question-and-answer session of the first day of the four-day event at the same Wynfrey Hotel in suburban Birmingham.
"I do believe he had a big hand in this," he said. "I thank my mentors. I think Jimmy Johnson (whom he coached under at the University of Miami). I thank Pete Carroll (whom he coached under at USC). I thank our players. A lot of factors had to happen for me to get the job at LSU. I'm very, very honored to be the head coach here."
He is convinced, and LSU fans are hopeful, that he is not the same coach who went 3-21 in three seasons in the SEC.
"I'm very grateful for my time at Ole Miss," he said. "I had a great job -- a job in the SEC. Was given a great chance. I wasn't ready. I went there as a defensive line coach. I did the things that I did as the defensive line coach that was successful over the years. It didn't work at Ole Miss."
He looked in the mirror after the firing and vowed to become a head coach again. He visited his mentors. He talked to other coaches.
"Here's the two things I came up with," he said. "I was going to treat the team exactly how I treat my sons. No different. And I was going to treat every coach on the staff with respect and let him coach his position as he knew it. Ever since those two minor changes, we've been 12-4. So that's the difference."
Junior tailback Derrius Guice, who accompanied Orgeron to SEC Media Days along with wide receiver D.J. Chark and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, enjoys having Orgeron as his new coach.
"Getting the job was well deserved for him," Guice said. "He loves it. He gets us all excited. The guy is unbelievable, he has so much energy. I think he must scream in his sleep. Every time you see him, it's, 'Hey! Hey! Hey! Go Tigers.'"
Orgeron has lost much of the talent that helped him win five of seven regular season games last year and get the permanent job. Safety Jamal Adams, cornerback Tre'Davious White, middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith, tailback Leonard Fournette, center Ethan Pocic and wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural are gone.
But he has two of the best coordinators in the country in Dave Aranda on the defensive side and his hire, Matt Canada, on the offensive side in addition to Guice, a solid senior quarterback in Danny Etling and perhaps the top defensive end in the nation in Arden Key, who is expected to be back for the season opener against BYU after having shoulder surgery last spring.
Orgeron insists he has nothing to prove ... to himself.
"I think that's out there," he said. "But to me, we already did it. I took the job at USC. We went 6-2. We played pretty good last year. We beat Louisville. I feel that I'm ready to be the head coach at LSU. My players feel that. There's a need for me to prove to the perimeter. But I don't feel the pressure from that. I know this. I understand the expectations of LSU. I was born in Louisiana (LaRose). They're very high. But we have the same expectation of our staff and ourselves. I don't feel the pressure, but I do acknowledge that it's out there. And I still need to prove that now I'm the head coach, and we need to win. And I get that."
Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU sports for the USA Today Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter at @LSUBeatTweet.
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