Monday, January 14, 2013

USC fires head coach Kevin O'Neill

Kevin O'Neill (photo courtesy USC)
LOS ANGELES - Even defeating Utah couldn't save Kevin O'Neill's basketball coaching job.

University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden apparently had had enough, firing O'Neill after going 1-14 on the road - the one victory came on a 76-59 victory at Utah on Saturday. O'Neill started this season 7-10, and assistant coach Bob Cantu will serve as head coach in the interim.

O'Neill had a 48-65 overall record in four years at USC, and went 6-26 during the 2012 campaign. USC has lost 9 of its last 13 games, including a losing streak of 5 games during that stretch.

Haden said the following in a release posted on USC's website:

"I would like to thank Kevin O'Neill for his four years of service to USC. He took over a program under difficult circumstances because of our NCAA issues and, despite that, he was able to do some good things. It was hard for me to evaluate him as a head coach until this year when he had enough players and veterans to compete.  As the season progressed, it became evident to me that we needed new leadership in our men's basketball program.  Despite a nice road win in our last game, I felt it was best to make a change now, with most of the Pac-12 season still ahead of us, in order to re-energize our team. I feel confident that Bob Cantu will capably guide our team on an interim basis while we search for a new coach."

The university reached out to O'Neill for a statement, and he said the following:

"I enjoyed my four years at USC.  It is a special place.  I enjoyed the people I worked with, the players I coached and our fans.  I thank USC for allowing me to guide their program.  I couldn't be more proud to work anywhere. I would encourage all of our recruits to honor their commitment to USC and help build the Trojan program in the right direction."

USC is coming off of several NCAA sanctions, going back to O.J. Mayo and Mike Garrett, and the Trojans are working hard to improve their image. Haden thinks Cantu will do just that.

We'll see. It's still Pac-12 basketball.

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