TAMPA — Monte Kiffin will finish the season with the Bucs, and indications are he will then waltz off to Tennessee.
And Monday, nobody danced around the fact that Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator wants the end of his legendary coaching career to be a family affair.
Kiffin, 68, is expected to join the Vols staff being assembled by son Lane, who was introduced Monday as the University of Tennessee coach.
Lane Kiffin met with his players for 41 minutes Sunday night and informed them his famous father would be joining the Vols' staff. But the younger Kiffin would not reveal specifics about his coaching staff at his news conference.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden said Monte Kiffin will remain with the team at least until the end of the season. "Yes, and again, he's my friend, and I want what's best for him," Gruden said. "We've got work to do, and we're going to finish the job. And there will be no distractions."
The Bucs said Kiffin was unavailable for comment Monday. General manager Bruce Allen said he has had discussions over the years about Kiffin's desire to eventually coach with his son and knows the outcome.
"This really has been addressed some time ago with Monte," Allen said. "We feel very comfortable that we know what's taking place. We're going to let Monte make any comments he wants to and respect his views.
"Monte and I have talked about this, obviously, when Lane went to coach the Raiders and prior to that, when Lane was almost going to get the University of Minnesota job. … Monte and I have addressed different issues over the years, whether he would coach with his son and things of that nature."
Lane Kiffin, 33, said several members of his new coaching staff still are under contract with other teams. Monte Kiffin signed a two-year extension with the Bucs last year that made him the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the NFL at $2-million per year.
"When it's all said and done, you'll be happy with what we do here," Lane Kiffin said. "In the end, we have to make sure we do it right. But I'm not going to mention any names out of respect for the contracts they're under."
The Bucs (9-3) are tied atop the NFC South headed into a Monday Night Football showdown with the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. Gruden said there's nothing he can do to end the speculation about Monte Kiffin's future.
"It's going to persist," Gruden said. "I don't have any update.
"… I think everybody knows Monte. Everybody knows the situation. We're going to concentrate on our season right now. There will be a lot of people talking about it and asking about it, but there is no question as to what we're going to do here. We're going to zero in on Carolina and try to do a little study on Atlanta. No, I don't believe it will be a distraction."
Lane Kiffin becomes the Vols' third head coach in the past 31 years. He was 5-15 as coach of the Raiders before being fired in September by owner Al Davis. Before that, he was an assistant at USC (2001-06) and spent his final two seasons there as the Trojans' offensive coordinator.
Lane Kiffin is expected to bring his brother-in-law, David Reaves, aboard as an assistant.
The Vols will pay their new coach $14.25-million over the next six years. It's thought Monte Kiffin will take a slight pay cut to join his son at Tennessee.
When Monte Kiffin finally announces his departure, it will leave the Bucs with the daunting task of replacing one of the most successful defensive coordinators in history. The Bucs have ranked in the top 10 for the fewest points and fewest yards allowed in 10 of the previous 11 seasons. And this year, Tampa Bay is on pace to do it again.
"He is a passionate guy, he is very knowledgeable, and he is very experienced," Gruden said of Monte Kiffin. "He is a great teacher and a great communicator."
The leading candidate to replace Kiffin is defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, a protege of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. One of the Bucs' highest-paid assistant coaches, Morris does not have a contract for next season and is expected to be coveted as a defensive coordinator.
But linebacker Derrick Brooks is reluctant to consider the Bucs defense without Monte Kiffin.
"I don't know. I don't see anyone running this defense but Kif at this point," Brooks said. "Until something else happens, I don't really see anyone else doing it but him."