Monday, June 22, 2009

More response to the Kevin O'Neill hiring

Before we get into it, one of the knocks on O'Neill has been that he is a bit of an a-hole. He has had 15 jobs in 30 years, and has not left many admirers in his wake. Check out this article from the Memphis Commerical-Appeal for some background.

The bottom line is this: it is clear why USC went this direction with the hiring. O'Neill is a no-nonsense guy who will clean up this program. The last thing USC wants right now is to have some young gun head coach come in here, skirt the lines of recruiting legalities, and get their athletics program in even deeper with the NCAA infractions committee.

I really doubt O'Neill is Garrett's long-term solution (hell, he had the Arizona job handed to him on a silver platter and he managed to botch that). Instead, he seems to be more of a band-aid, a temporary answer that will keep the ship afloat while the Trojans weather the storm brewing with the impending NCAA investigation.

After the jump, some of the biggest names give their take on the hiring.

- Gregg Doyel, CBSSports: "By hiring O'Neill, USC also is dropping to its knees in remorse before the NCAA, which still is looking into the only sport on campus that matters to USC athletics director Mike Garrett, the USC football program. See, Kevin O'Neill is clean. He's not a cheater. Say what you want about Kevin O'Neill -- but don't say that only a stupid dead man could like him; that's piling on -- but you can't say he's dirty. You know what he is? He's Bob Knight Lite. Big jerk. But a big, clean jerk. Hiring O'Neill lets the NCAA know that your school is serious (finally) about having a clean basketball program."

- Andy Katz, "Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill walked off USC's Galen Center floor with the Wildcats leading at the half. He was extremely irritated with assistant Miles Simon, who had stood up to question the officials. O'Neill lit into Simon in the hallway, making sure he knew who was in charge. Arizona won the game. Two days later, the Wildcats were getting blitzed by UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. O'Neill went into the locker room at halftime and ripped into Jerryd Bayless, Chase Budinger and crew for essentially being soft. O'Neill was so upset, he broke a chalkboard into pieces. Arizona didn't come back and win the game. But it was clear who was in control: O'Neill. Love him or hate him, one thing is certain: Few coaches are as intense as O'Neill."

- Gary Parrish, CBSSports: "I know USC athletic director Mike Garrett loves defense (you saw the quote, right?). But hiring a "defensive" coach to work in Los Angeles and across town from Ben Howland is incredibly shortsighted. Understand, the only knock on Howland is that he's a "defensive" coach who doesn't offer his players enough offensive freedom; that's what those who recruit against him try to sell to recruits. Does it work? Not terribly well, it seems. But still, that's the perception and the knock. And rather than try to take advantage of it, USC hired a "defensive" coach who has a history of butting heads with pretty much everybody he coaches or works with. Honestly, does that make any sense?"

- Jeff Goodman, FOXSports: " 'He's a great guy off the court, but he's bipolar or something,' said one of his former players. 'On the court, he's a madman.' I don't doubt that USC is in desperate need of a disciplinarian — and O'Neill fits the bill. But he's also far from the model of stability. Here's a guy who actually admitted to a throng of media that he didn't even talk to his assistant coaches — now Memphis head coach Josh Pastner and former Wildcats assistant Miles Simon — during the games. That's arrogance. O'Neill basically had the Arizona job handed to him on a silver platter. All he had to do was keep his mouth quiet and wait until Lute Olson called it a career. But O'Neill couldn't do it — and instead of being the head coach in Tucson right now, he was run out of town by Olson."

- Scott Wolf, LA Daily News: "O'Neill has developed a reputation as a love-him-or- hate-him coach with an attention to detail that sometimes became overshadowed by his fiery personality. During a game when he coached at Tennessee, O'Neill sent reserve Jason Moore into a game against Arkansas. After Moore made some errors and Tennessee lost its lead, O'Neill screamed at Moore, "You better hope you die before halftime!" Another time, O'Neill became so frustrated with a player during practice he sat in the stands for 15 minutes and booed him."

- Chris Foster, LA Times: "Reached by cellphone, O'Neill declined to comment, but in his statement he addressed the task at hand, saying, "I recognize that USC basketball has been through a tough time lately," and, "One thing I expect people might second-guess me on is whether I made the right call in taking this job." O'Neill, who is to be introduced at a news conference Monday, said he had been following the situation in media reports and hinted that he may have had as many questions for school officials as they did for him during the search process. "USC could not have been more forthcoming and honest answering my questions," he said. As to whether the NCAA investigation would hamper recruiting, he said, ". . . If I thought I wouldn't be able to do my job -- do the job that the university expects of me and equally important that I expect of myself -- I wouldn't have taken the job."

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