USC Dismisses Kevin O'Neill as Basketball Coach After 7-10 Start
Los Angeles, CA
After starting the season with a 7-10 mark, USC has dismissed basketball coach Kevin O'Neill and assigned associate head coach Bob Cantu to replace him on an interim basis.
O'Neill confirmed that he was fired Monday after meeting with athletic director Pat Haden and associate athletic director Steve Lopes.
"They informed me they were going in a different direction," O'Neill told ESPN.com after the meeting. "I thanked them for the opportunity. I have nothing but great things to say about the university. It's a great place."
O'Neill said he is scheduled to receive $1.5 million from the remainder of his contract with the Trojans, who are 2-2 in Pac-12 play this season.
"It's disappointing any time you don't win enough," O'Neill said. "That's what it comes down to in this business, winning enough. I'm disappointed I couldn't do a better job for the players."
Last year, the injury-ravaged Trojans finished 6-26 and won only one conference game.
The Trojans' lineup have improved significantly this season in terms of talent but chemistry has been an issue between transfers J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart (both from Wake Forest), Omar Oraby (Rice) and Eric Wise (UC Irvine).
"Having so many new guys all at once was obviously a challenge," O'Neill said. "In the last few weeks we've actually played really good basketball."
O'Neill took over the program in the summer of 2009 after Tim Floyd resigned amid allegations of NCAA infractions.
The school lost an entire recruiting class and was banned from the postseason the following year, but O'Neill still managed to lead the team to a winning season. In 2010-11, he guided the Trojans to the NCAA tournament.
"I would like to thank Kevin O'Neill for his four years of service to USC," Haden said 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," he added.
The 38-year-old Cantu was hired in 2001 by former coach Henry Bibby and has worked under four others -- Jim Saia, the late Rick Majerus, Floyd and O'Neill. Like O'Neill, Bibby and Majerus departed in the middle of the season.
Cantu was hired at USC from Sacramento State, where he was an assistant. He previously worked in junior college and at Cal Poly.
"I've just been really fortunate," Cantu said. "It just kind of worked out at this point. I've been real fortunate. I didn't know Tim or Kevin at all and [tried to] do the best I could in whatever area I could. I had opportunities and never had a chance to be an interim coach at this level."
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