Kevin O’Neill

What Kevin O’Neill did wrong

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So the three-and-a-half year tenure of Kevin O’Neill ended today at USC. First of all, it’s never good to see a coach, and especially a good guy like O’Neill, lose their job. Here’s to hoping he lands on his feet quickly, which he should. He’s a fantastic basketball mind.

But what cost him his job? A few things.

Failure to recruit Los Angeles well

I thought about this after seeing a tweet from Josh Gershon of Scout.com.

That’s a huge mistake by O’Neill. Much like not recruiting New York City as the coach of St. John’s or Chicago at DePaul (though at this point…). You have to be able to keep the home base as your home base. Although, in fairness, UCLA splits it with them. This season? One player from the actual city of Los Angeles in Brendyn Taylor. Excluding his first season, in which he was playing with a number of Tim Floyd’s players, O’Neill brought in five total Los Angeles recruits. He also went after guys that left pundits scratching their heads. That’s totally unacceptable for the fanbase.

Injuries or not, 2011-12 cost him

Injuries aren’t something a coach can control. Players get hurt. But even after the variable infirmary O’Neill had in his training room last season, the 6-25 record that came out of it signaled a complete loss of everything. Players, effort, talent. It also signaled what O’Neill’s teams had when faced with adversity. O’Neill couldn’t help it. These are college kids. But even glossing over who was healthy, they had enough to at least compete in a Pac-12 Conference that sent just two teams to the NCAA Tournament. Which brings me to this…

Inability to compete in the Pac-12

Injuries or not, the Pac-12 has routinely been one of the worst of the Power Six conferences in O’Neill’s four seasons in L.A. With that, programs expect to all be able to compete, even if that’s because everyone is on the same level of mediocrity. In his three-and-a-half years, his teams were 21-37 in Pac-10/Pac-12 play, with their best record being 10-8 in 2010-11 when they squeaked into the NCAA Tournament at 19-15. Things have improved a bit this season, and when the Trojans didn’t, O’Neill got the axe.

No signature player

From a straight-up on-the-court perspective, O’Neill was never able to bring in a dynamic player that defined his team. Before him, Floyd brought in O.J. Mayo (even if it eventually got him ousted). Every solid team has one and he failed to get one. From the looks of it, maybe O’Neill though Jio Fontan could be that guy. While he’s been the best player on the team, he hasn’t been a guy that can put a program on his back.

These are a few reasons O’Neill is no longer employed by USC. He’s a great coach and shouldn’t have any trouble finding a program that needs his services, but you can’t have all these things and keep your job.

David Harten is the editor and founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

#Nebrasketball improves to 6-1 with win over USC

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In the only game between major conference teams on the night, Nebraska (affectionately known by Husker fans as #Nebrasketball on Twitter) moved to 6-1 with a 63-51 home win over USC.

Ray Gallegos dropped in 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-10 threes, in 38 minutes and the Cornhuskers hit 11-of-17 threes overall (64.7-percent) in the win. The Trojans dropped to 3-4 on the season, their third loss in a row after starting to season 3-1.

It was a game that was definitely highlight by Gallegos, who was the only real star. Center Andre Almeida got into foul trouble and finished with eight points and two rebounds with four fouls.

Three Trojans finished in double-figure scoring with J.T. Terrell’s 14 leading the way.

This is a rough start for USC coach Kevin O’Neill. He’s coming off a dreadful season in 2011-12 due to injuries and is counting on an insane amount of transfer to parlay this season into a postseason bid. So far, it’s not looking like it’s going to amount to that, but the season is young and Pac-12 Conference play looms.

The first seven games weren’t incredibly revealing of Nebraska’s true talent level this season. Wins over USC, Tulane, Wake Forest and Valparaiso aren’t going to get a team an at-large bid in March. Through there decent start, they’re 224th in the nation or worst in points, rebounds and assists per game. So while they’re winning, they’re not winning impressively. Though they’ll take wins in Lincoln, no matter how impressive. Tim Miles has done his job so far for  Nebraska. In-game tweeting and all.

What will help the cause though? The Huskers next and toughest non-conference game, at home against in-state basketball rival no. 16 Creighton.

Win that people will start to become believers in #Nebrasketball.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

USC hoops did its penance

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ss_070323_NCAA2_04_standard.jpgKevin O’Neill is a happy man.

USC’s self-imposed ban from postseason play, a reduction in scholarships and vacating victories from O.J. Mayo’s lone was enough to ensure the NCAA didn’t levy serious penalties on the men’s basketball team.

Then again, given what the NCAA did to the Trojans football program, maybe it just forgot about the men’s team…not that O’Neill cares. He’s simply glad the worst is over.

“I know this, had we been hit with another year of postseason ban, our program would have been in shambles,” O’Neill told Andy Katz. “I definitely was concerned that we might get another year, especially as long as it went [from Feb. 18 to June 10, long past the six-to-eight week timetable given normally by the COI]. That was my concern — the time.”

The additional minor penalties include:

  • Four years probation (June 2010 through June 2014)
  • Prohibition of non-university employees, including boosters from traveling on charters, attending practices, participating or donating to camps or accessing locker rooms before during or after games.
  • No contact with Mayo or Rodney Guillory. (That sounds like a no-brainer, but it means no financial or recruiting help from Mayo.)

Oddly enough, Tim Floyd, the coach at the center of all this, emerged relatively unscathed. (Unless you consider this punishment.) So why’d he resign and take the heat for the Mayo mess if he was innocent? Who knows. Maybe he was forced out, maybe he wanted out.

Or maybe the NCAA forgot about him.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops.