USC Athletic Director Pat Haden made his first real change while guiding the ship at Troy when he announced Monday that men’s hoops coach, Kevin O’Neill, has been fired four games into the Pac-12 season.
In his place, long-time assistant coach 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 his official 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.
Though there may have been “good things”, O’Neill, never really got the whole “winning thing” down in Troy. He had a 48-65 overall record through his tenure, including going 6-26 in an an absolutely awful, injury-laden 2012 season. The Trojans are 2-2 in Pac-12 play this year (7-10 overall) and are coming off their first road win in over two years, a win that also snapped a 14-game losing streak on the road. The Trojans have also lost 9 of its last 13 games, including a 5-game losing streak.
“As the season progressed, it became evident to me that we needed new leadership in our men’s basketball program,” Haden continued. He justified the timing by saying with so much left of the season still to be played, USC can find a suitable replacement now that can breathe new life into the team.
“I enjoyed my four years at USC. 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,” O’Neill said in a statement.
To be fair, O’Neill’s first couple of years with USC weren’t bad; he led the team to 16-14 and 19-15 seasons. In 2010-11, they tied for fourth in the Pac-10 and made it to the NCAA tournament before falling in the first round. After that however, he never really got the ball rolling again in the same fashion.
Interim coach Cantu is in his 12th season with the USC men’s basketball program and his 17th at the NCAA level. This is his second stint as the interim coach, as he was lead the Men of Troy against conference champions Arizona in the semi-finals of the Pac-10 tournament in 2011, which the Trojans narrowly lost, 67-62.
While USC searches for a new coach, the 2013 season continues on. The team hosts Oregon and Oregon State this week, on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.