USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has been fired by the school, the school announced in a release on Monday morning. Longtime assistant Bon Cantu has been named the interim head coach.
“I would like to thank Kevin O’Neill for his four years of service to USC,” said USC athletic director Pat Haden in a statement. “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 enjoyed my four years at USC. It is a special place,” O’Neill said. “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.”
The only reason this move is surprising is that the Trojans are actually coming off of a win, having beaten Utah on the road by 17 on Saturday.
Beyond that, however, O’Neill’s tenure with USC has been pretty uninspiring. Last season, the Trojans had an excuse for losing, as the 6-25 record they posted had much more to do with injuries than it did with O’Neill’s ability to coach.
This year, however, with the influx of talented transfers and players coming off of injuries, USC’s 7-10 record ranks them among the most disappointing teams in the country. It’s enough to make you believe that this tweet from Jeff Goodman is accurate: O’Neill must have lost that locker room. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to fire a coach in the middle of conference play.
Regardles, what’s done is done. Some names I’ve already seen pop up on twitter as a potential replacement for O’Neill? Josh Pastner, Randy Bennett, Steve Lavin and Dan Monson. Without a doubt, the best part of a coaching search is seeing what names get thrown out there.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.