Saturday, June 20, 2009

USC hires former Arizona interim coach Kevin O'Neill

USC could not have expected much out of their coaching search. Coaching in the shadow of Pete Carroll's football program and waging recruiting wars with cross-town rival UCLA is not an enviable task.

Now throw into the mix the an NCAA investigation and possible NCAA sanctions. You think the school is going to allow any "pushing of the envelope" when it comes to recruiting?

Don't expect USC to be hosting too many Elite Camps in the coming years or offering AAU coaches any package deals to land a recruit. The typical runners and NBA agents you find on any major college campus? Fat chance any USC official allows them within sight of the Troy campus.

Can you say competitive disadvantage?

USC could not have been expecting to hire a big name coach. They tried, however, and failed. Jamie Dixon. Reggie Theus. Lon Kruger. Jamie Dixon again. To his credit, Mike Garrett did his due diligence, flirting with seemingly every big name out there. But the fact of the matter was that no coach that was even remotely happy with their job was going to take this job.

Garrett had to cut his list to three kinds of candidates. Those currently unemployed, those currently coaching a low-major/low-profile high-major, and assistants (NBA or college) looking to bump their pay.

This list included quite a few quality names, and even more quality coaches: Seth Greenburg, Craig Robinson, Bobby Braswell, PJ Carlesimo.

So who did they settle on?

Kevin O'Neill, the first Arizona interim coach.

The guy that wasn't good enough to get the Arizona job permanently.

The guy that was, well, disliked by Jerryd Bayless and the rest of the '08 Wildcats.

The guy that Gary Parrish has said "almost never leaves admirers in his trail."

A lot of people dislike this hiring (here is Parrish's reaction, here is Goodman's), but I think it is great. O'Neill is really known for two things: he is a disciplinarian, and he is a tireless worker. For a program like USC, that is basically starting over from scratch (yes, you are starting from scratch when Lil' Bow Wow Lil' Mama Lil' Romeo has a chance to start) with the dark cloud of the NCAA hanging over their head, what you need is someone who will take control of the program.

And that is exactly what USC hopes O'Neill will do.

Don't forget, we are also talking about a guy who has a vendetta against Arizona, and to a certain extent UCLA as well. You don't think O'Neill would love to come in here and build a program that will steal recruits, fans, and Pac-10 titles from the Wildcats and the Bruins?

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