USC fires former Arizona basketball assistant coach O'Neill
Photo Courtesy of Arizona Athletics
Kevin O’Neill, the former Arizona basketball assistant and interim head coach, was relieved of his duties as head coach of USC on Monday.
While USC athletic director Pat Haden searches for O’Neill’s replacement, longtime Trojans assistant Bob Cantu will serve as the interim head coach.
“I would like to thank Kevin O’Neill for his four years of service to USC,” Haden said in a press release. “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. Despite a nice road win in our last game, I felt it was best to make a change now, with most of the Pac-12 season still ahead of us, in order to re-energize our team.”
In three and a half years at USC, O’Neill had a 48-65 overall record, including 21-37 in Pac-12 play. The Trojans are 7-10 this season and 2-2 in the Pac-12 after suffering through a 6-26 season last year.
“I enjoyed my four years at USC,” O’Neill said. “It is a special place. I enjoyed the people I worked with, the players I coached and our fans. I thank USC for allowing me to guide their program.
I couldn’t be more proud to work anywhere. I would encourage all of our recruits to honor their commitment to USC and help build the Trojan program in the right direction.”
O’Neill was an assistant coach at Arizona from 1986-1989 and was brought back in 2007 after head coaching stints at Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern, along with NBA jobs as the assistant coach with the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. He was the Toronto Raptors head coach for one year in 2003.
Early in the 2007 season, former UA head coach Lute Olson took a leave of absence for the duration of the season and O’Neill was chosen as the head coach in the interim.
He led the Wildcats, with a lineup featuring the likes of Jerryd Bayless, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, to a 19-15 record and an NCAA tournament berth.
He was announced as the successor to Olson by former athletic director Jim Livengood, with the expectation Olson would soon retire. But after Olson returned, O’Neill left to be an assistant at Memphis for a year before being hired by USC in 2009.
Arizona will face USC at McKale Center on Jan. 26.