Right about now, USC is getting ready for tipoff against Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac 10 tournament. Problem is, they’re doing it without their head coach. Coming off the wires within the last hour, Kevin O’Neill has been suspended for the remainder of the Pac 10 tournament after he and his wife engaged in a pretty heavy verbal altercation with an Arizona booster in a Los Angeles hotel lobby. Despite no reported physical contact, the banter did not cease until a security guard stepped in.
O’Neill, you remember, served as interim head coach for the Wildcats during the 2007-2008 head coach, following the medical leave of the esteemed Lute Olson, so the argument with this particular booster is by no means unfounded.
Frankly, I’d love to hear about the history between these two. Did O’Neill spurn the booster’s requests while in Tucson? Did the booster resemble and have a strong, Buddy Garrity-like personality; a super fan who also was convinced he could devise a play to break a full-court press?
Included in the formal statement issued by USC athletic director was acknowledgment that O’Neill “would receive additional discipline that would remain private.” Trojans assistant coach Bob Cantu will man the sidelines in O’Neill’s absence.
Pushing aside the head coaches obligatory and canned response to the matter, in where he took blame for the situation and apologized to all affected parties, this could either burst the bubble for this scrappy Trojan team, or galvanize them to move one step closer to an NCAA Tournament berth. Arizona is no slouch, and could serve as the final hurdle that USC must move past to earn an at large bid.