Music blared on what under normal circumstances should have been a somber day.
But Pete Carroll doesn't operate under normal circumstances, and Carroll loves music in just about every facet of his life, so for this too, there would be music.
And as the music played, there Carroll was, walking down a hallway at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center with the usual pep in his step and a smile on his face as he made his way to a press conference in which he would discuss the decision made between Carroll and Seahawks ownership for him to step down as head coach and into an advisory role with the team.
After long embraces with several players who were in attendance, including team captains Bobby Wagner, Geno Smith, Tyler Lockett and Quandre Diggs, Carroll walked into an auditorium full of Seahawks staff members, coaches and media members, music still playing at his request, then made way to the lectern.
There wear tears, especially when talking about his wife, Glena, who he called "the angel in my life," there was laughter, and more than anything, there was Carroll, being his authentic self, 14 years after he stood on that same stage being introduced as Seattle's head coach.
"It's been an honor and a thrill to be part of this program," Carroll said. "I've loved every minute of it."
The wins absolutely mattered to Carroll, as did the NFC West titles, the Super Bowl appearances, and especially the Lombardi Trophy the 2013 team won in emphatic fashion, but what will perhaps define his legacy in Seattle more than anything is the culture he built in the locker room and within the entire organization that helped facilitate so much success while at the same time making Seattle one of the NFL's premier destinations.
"What I am most proud of is that we took a culture that we developed in those college days and came here to see if you cared for people deeply and you loved them for who they were and tried to find the extraordinary uniqueness that made them them and celebrate that, and not try to make them something that they're not, and not to try to expect them to be something other than that, but try to see if we can capture that extraordinary uniqueness that they had, and celebrate that with them—let's see what happens," Carroll said. "Well, at USC, we killed it. And we came up here, and overall we've been successful for a long time. I didn't think in any way this would happen like this. I didn't have that vision. But I'm grateful for it because what we have here is we have an extraordinary culture. I'm really proud of that."
And at the crux of it all, for Carroll, was the long-held belief that helping each individual person in the building—not just the players in the locker room—be their best in everything they do would translate to success on Sundays. Carroll often compared his relationship to his players to that of a father and sons, so it was only fitting that as he thanked Wagner, Lockett, Smith, and Diggs, and as he went on to discuss his 14-year "marriage" with general manager John Schneider, and when he reflected on the impact this move will have on the rest of the coaching staff, Carroll's emotions at times got the best of him.
"What's always been behind the culture is trying to help people find their best one person at a time," Carroll said. "I wanted to say is what's always been behind the culture is trying to help people find their best one person at a time. It works. It's real. You can feel it. I'm really grateful for that. So we learned something here. It was a total experiment. It works. It's real. You can feel it. I'm really grateful for that. So we learned something here. It was a total experiment."
And that experiment was a grand success.
In 14 seasons, Carroll's Seahawks reached the postseason 10 times, had a winning record 11 times, and won five NFC West titles. The Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLVIII, becoming one of only three teams this century to play in consecutive Super Bowls along with New England and Kansas City. Carroll, who was named to the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team, helped oversee a defense that led the league in scoring defense for four straight seasons from 2012-2015, a first in the Super Bowl era.
And it was that Super Bowl victory that, not surprisingly, brought Carroll some of his best memories as Seahawks coach.
"My favorite moment was standing on the stage in New York (after the Super Bowl victory) and finding Glena out in the crowd," he said. "That was it, by far."
Carroll also pointed to "the chance of being in one of those parades" as what he'll miss most about the job. "The thrill of a lifetime was being in that parade for our fans and people and all that."
In overseeing the most successful era in franchise history, Carroll both validated the philosophies he developed while building USC into a college football powerhouse, and also wildly exceeded his own expectations for what his third NFL head coaching tenure would bring, saying he told longtime assistant coach, friend and confidant Carl Smith, "In maybe two or three years, they'll give us a chance and then they'll kick us out of here and we'll see what happens."
Instead, "two or three years" turned into 14 seasons that saw Carroll and Schneider build upon the work that started when Paul Allen bought the team, then later hired Mike Holmgren, beginning the process of turning the Seahawks into one NFL's model franchises.
"I'm thrilled that we've had this run," Carroll said. "I really am. The level of consistency that we've demonstrated is such to make you proud. It's hard to do what we've done. It's hard to be as good as we have."
And at Carroll's side through it all has been Schneider, who will now take the reins in the process of hiring the coach who will follow Carroll as Seattle's head coach, a process Carroll says he won't play a role in other than to support Schneider.
"What's going to happen now is the process will start to get new leadership here, and that will be on Johnny's docket," Carroll said. "He's going to get after that and make that happen with the help of ownership, and we'll be supporting them as much as possibly can happen so that they can do a great job with it."
Carroll's roll as an advisor is still to be defined, he said, and while he didn't exit the 2023 season expecting to be finished as the Seahawks coach, he ultimately got to this place with Seahawks Chair Jody Allen because he sees a bright future for the organization and wants Schneider to get his chance to lead the team into that future.
"It's why this happened, because I want him to have this chance," Carroll said. "It's been 14 years, he's been waiting for his opportunity and he deserves it. And he's great at what he does. And now he's going to find out, find out, big fella. But he deserves this moment, and I was cheerleading for him. If there's nothing else that was part of this factor, that was the biggest factor. It was to help make sure that he could have this opportunity and he's going to go for it and I would do whatever I could to help him be successful still."
And while Carroll's tenure as Seattle's head coach has come to and end, even at 72 he leaves that job feeling a lot like he did when he arrived in Seattle.
"I'm freaking jacked," he said. "I'm fired up. I'm not tired. I'm not worn down."
As Carroll reminisced about a legendary coaching career in Seattle, about the Super Bowl title, about all the winning seasons, about the relationships formed with players and coaches, and about the partnership he formed with Schneider, it was hard not to think back to his introductory press conference 14 years earlier when he laid out the loftiest of goals.
"I hope we can do things better than it's ever been done before around here," Carroll said in 2010. "Those are extraordinarily high expectations, and I love living in that world."
Over 14 seasons, Carroll somehow exceeded those expectations while bringing a region into his world, and Seahawks fans, the organization and the NFL are better off for his unforgettable run in Seattle.
Named head coach on January 11, 2010, Pete Carroll became the eighth head coach in Seahawks history after one of the most successful runs in USC history in the college ranks. Take a look at photos from throughout his time in Seattle.