Why I Love Pete Carroll But Hate USC: Self-Aware Leadership

Pete Carroll, Coach of the Seattle Seahawks

From 2001 to 2009, there was no single person I hated more than University of Southern California’s (USC) head football coach, Pete Carroll.

I hated him because I grew up a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) fan, went to UCLA, and met my wife at UCLA.

Yes, I love UCLA.

In Carroll’s nine years at USC, the Trojans beat the Bruins eight times. I watched some of the most humiliating losses in sports rivalry history live at the Coliseum (2005) and the Rose Bowl (2008, 2010).

I hated Pete Carroll.

And then, I became a pastor.

I realized quickly that pastors received similar amounts of pressure and public criticism as head college football coaches did. (e.g. You have 3 to 7 years to win a championship).

When a coach doesn’t win football games, they don’t last very long.

The most blatant win for a pastor is growing the size of a church, but that’s not the only metric for winning (nor should it be).


Winning can include:

  • implementing organization and systems to the church
  • establishing strong partnerships with the city, school district, police and fire departments
  • executing a thriving youth and children’s ministry
  • eliminating poverty and drug abuse in the area

Lead pastors must articulate the metric of winning or the staff and congregation will determine that for you (and unfortunately, the default is growth in numbers).

Nevertheless, when a pastor cannot deliver wins, he either loses his confidence as a minister and leaves the organization or the church asks him to resign.

I’ve watched a lot of pastors move from church to church every 3 to 5 years (sometimes depending if they get a major win by year 4) similar to football coaches who move from school to school.

Legendary Coaches and Leadership Philosophy

I began to study strong visionary coaches:

  • Bill Belichick (Patriots)
  • Gregg Popovich (Spurs)
  • Phil Jackson (Bulls; Lakers; Knicks)
  • Bill Walsh (49ers)
  • John Wooden (UCLA)

I started reading books by famous coaches like Bill Walsh and John Wooden. And then I stumbled across a book called Win Forever written by (yup) Pete Carroll.

As much as I tried to fight it, Carroll’s leadership philosophy resonated with what I knew the church needed.

Here are a few reasons why I now love Pete Carroll and how he’s influenced my leadership.

Pete Carroll’s Winning Philosophy

“I embarked on a process of discovering who I was, not only as a football coach, but more important, as a person.” — Pete Carroll, Win Forever

Pete was fired five times before he was hired at USC. After he was fired by the The New England Patriots, he realized something.

He needed to process his adversity. This was key.

Pete writes that it wasn’t fun uprooting his family multiple times, but these hardships were needed for him to actualize his highest potential. Most people experience adversity and undergo post-traumatic stress.

Well, Carroll took his post-traumatic stress and turned it into
post-traumatic growth, learning how to convert that stress and eat it like an energy bar.

Before coaching at USC, Carroll, while reading legendary UCLA coach John Wooden’s book, had an epiphany.

Wooden won 10 national championships, but Wooden had been a coach for 16 years before he won any championship.

But once he won, he was unbeatable.

He basically could, win forever. Wooden figured out his winning philosophy.

He mapped it out in what is now famously known as Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.

In other words, Wooden systematized his philosophy. He created a system of virtues, values, and principles that he embodied and taught to instill a culture of excellence.

Pete Carroll and John Wooden

Carroll realized this was what was missing.

He wasn’t able to explain his vision clearly enough to the stakeholders for them to understand what he was doing and get buy-in for the long term.

In Win Forever, he explains how he slammed Wooden’s book shut and right then and there, he decided to create his own winning philosophy so that he can win forever.

Pete Carroll and his Philosophy Pyramid

Leadership Philosophy in the Church World

  • What is your winning philosophy?
  • How do you systematize that philosophy?
  • What is the DNA of your organization?
  • Can you draw it on a napkin?

Some Actions to Consider

  • Architect your own winning philosophy
  • Get a coherent philosophy so you can win day in and day out

This is how you begin to forge a winning culture.

EvFree’s Philosophy

Recently, EvFree Fullerton has adopted a winning strategy from a very successful organization, Mariner’s Church (Irvine, CA) called Rooted.

Rooted is an integral part of Mariner’s philosophy which they call the “Transformational Loop.”

Credit to Mariner’s Church in Irvine, CA

“The Loop” is a great template for churches to use and modify for their contexts. I’m in the process of designing EvFree’s “pipeline” to clearly convey and systematize the elders’ vision for others in our church to understand.

Another great resource for templates are found in Will Mancini’s (Auxano) and Dr. Warren Bird’s newest book, God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future, arriving in January 2016.

Pete Carroll’s Win Forever Philosophy

Pete Carroll’s WinForever Pyramid

In sum, Carroll found what it takes to win and packaged it nicely into his own philosophy.

What’s your winning philosophy?

Update on Eddie H Park Coaching

As a coach, I work with Christians in leadership positions, both in the marketplace (executives and middle managers), non-profit organizations and vocational ministries.

For the first time, I am opening up this opportunity to the public.

First, please read: How to Find (and Choose) a Coach by Ed Batista (a seasoned Stanford Business School coach)

If you are interested and want more information, please email me and I am looking forward to connecting with and serving you.

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