Trying to find a coach to take over a program that doesn't have an outstanding history, has a small fan base, saw nearly every player that could bolt for the NBA and does not have a single recruit signed for 2009 can't be easy. Oh, they also have possible NCAA sanctions hanging over their head. Because of that, it's not much of a surprise that Jamie Dixon turned them down (twice), as did Reggie Theus, Lon Kruger and Jeff Van Gundy. Well, after going through all those guys, SC has finally gotten themselves a head coach, Kevin O'Neil (HT to muircoach). He's a familiar face to UCLA and the Pac-10 too because he spent a year leading Arizona.
Kevin O'Neill, whose departure from Arizona made headlines in 2008, returned to college basketball with the announcement he has been hired as USC's men's basketball coach following the resignation of former coach Tim Floyd.
O'Neill has worked at both the college and pro levels, spending the 2009 season as an assistant coach and special assistant to the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies.
It's rather doubtful that O'Neil's USC program ever really threatens UCLA. In his only year at Arizona, he lost to UCLA twice. It was only a two-point game when they played in Tucson, but when the Wildcats visited Pauley, they lost by 22. This hire will likely be met by some skepticism from the Trojan fans. Maybe they should have hired an interim coach and looked for a permanent guy next offseason? Mike Garrett doesn't think so.
"We're thrilled to have Kevin O'Neill as our men's basketball coach," USC athletic director Mike Garrett said in a release. "Kevin is the consummate coach. He knows his Xs and Os, he's an excellent recruiter and he is very in tune with the academic side of a player's collegiate experience. His 30 years of experience at the college and professional levels has prepared him well for this opportunity.
"I love his coaching philosophy and principles: he's a no-nonsense coach who is very detail-oriented and prepares his teams well. He stresses defense and I've always believed that defense wins championships."
Hmmm, this one could be interesting. There are some major questions as to whether or not O'Neil can competently coach a team. He will rely on defense and rebounding, some things he's been charged with coordinating multiple times as an assistant at both the college and pro level. His offense has been criticized before though and he's never really been charged with recruiting the way he'll have to as a head coach. O'Neil isn't leading anyone to the promise land, but his USC program should be able to get back to mediocre. At this point, can USC ask for anything more?
If SC did anything right with this hire, it's that they hired a guy who is clean. There hasn't been an suspcision around O'Neil's recruiting tactics and by all accounts, he's a by the book guy who will run a clean program so SC has that going for them. Will they have any wins going for them though? O'Neil is taking over a bonafide disaster zone.