Saturday, June 20, 2009
Bear Down, Trojan Man! O'Neill Moves To USC
((HT: LA Times/Foster))
Kevin O'Neill has been hired by USC as basketball coach, the school announced today on its website.
O'Neill's hiring came a day after USC representatives made a final run at Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon, who again declined to leave the Big East powerhouse to take over a beleaguered Trojans' program that is under NCAA investigation.
O'Neill, 52, replaces Tim Floyd ((pictured, thanks LA Times file)), who resigned June 9 in the midst of a tumultuous off-season that included allegations that he hand-delivered a payment in 2007 to an associate of former USC star O.J. Mayo.
The salvage operation O'Neill faces is immense. USC had its three top returning players declare their intent to turn professional, and five recruits either asked to be let out of their scholarships or change their verbal commitments. Only nine scholarship players remain on the roster.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity to coach at such a great institution as USC, with its tremendous athletic and academic tradition," O'Neill said in a statement released by USC. "I appreciate [Athletic Director] Mike Garrett's confidence in me. I will work my hardest to coach us to a championship level every single day. I can't wait to get started."
O'Neill also sounded like a coach who knew what he was getting into at USC.
"I recognized that USC basketball has been through a tough time lately," he said. "Like many college basketball fans, I have been following the developments in the media. One thing I expect people might second-guess me on is whether I made the right call in taking this job.
" . . . I want to assure you that I made my decision only after a thorough evaluation. . . . If I didn't believe in USC -- and all of the people involved -- I wouldn't be putting my name and reputation on the line. But I do and I am. Enough said.
"I'm sure I am also going to be asked whether the NCAA investigation involving basketball is going to hurt recruiting or the program in general. Let me just say that if I thought I wouldn't be able to do my job -- do the job that the University expects of me and equally important that I expect of myself -- I wouldn't have taken the job."
O'Neill spent last season as an assistant coach and special assistant to the general manager for the Grizzlies. He was the interim coach at Arizona, filling in for Lute Olson, during the 2007-08 season. Arizona reached the NCAA tournament and finished with a 19-15 record. Although O'Neill was designated as Olson's successor by Athletic Director Jim Livengood, he was pushed out when Olson announced his return in April 2008.
O'Neill was the Toronto Raptors head coach in 2003-04, when they finished with a 33-49 record. He has been an assistant with the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers.
On the college level, O'Neill has been the head coach at Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern. Marquette made the NCAA tournament in 1993 and 1994 under O'Neill.