Kevin O’Neill Being Investigated for Incident at Marriott


USC basketball coach Kevin O’Neill led the Trojans to a domination of Cal in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament Thursday afternoon, but his actions Thursday night are being scrutinized. Last night, USC released a statement through their website regarding a vague incident between USC basketball coach Kevin O’Neill, his wife, and an Arizona fan at a nearby hotel. The statement reads:

"We have received some information tonight about an incident involving coach Kevin O’Neill, his wife and a fan from another school that occurred following our men’s basketball game today. “We are looking into this and gathering facts. We will determine what appropriate action is necessary.”"

The statement doesn’t raise any red flag, but there is concern after seeing a report claiming O’Neill was intoxicated when he got into an altercation with Arizona fans. The report reads:

"PointGuardU’s sources have indicated that USC head coach Kevin O’Neill and his wife were drunkenly escorted away from their hotel after getting into verbal and physical altercations with Arizona fans on Thursday night. O’Neill and his wife were in a hotel lobby of the JW Marriott and visibly intoxicated when they exchanged words with a group of Arizona fans. O’Neill reportedly threatened the fan that USC was going to “beat the hell out of Arizona.” Words were exchanged and our sources say that O’Neill’s wife struck one of the Arizona fans. O’Neill and his wife were escorted out of the hotel, and Arizona fans were left wondering what just happened. The fan was UA booster Paul Weitman and they ran into each other at the elevators. KO believes Weitman is responsible for his firing at the UA and obviously still holds a heavy grudge. Mind you Weitman is 70+ years old. Apparently KO’s wife, Roberta, started the melee by roughing up Wetiman with one of her rings (surely not one of KO’s championship rings..I dont think he has any)….KO then got involved and when hotel security intervened the things got even uglier."

Naturally, I would be skeptical of any report coming from an opposing team’s fan site. However, the report features pictures of Kevin O’Neill, nearly finished drink in hand, dressed in the same attire that he was wearing when he coached USC to a victory earlier in the day.

Kevin O’Neill countered the Arizona fan site when he talked to Yahoo! Sports Friday morning.

"“I apologize to the university,” O’Neill said in a phone interview with Yahoo! Sports. “The last thing I’d ever want to do is cause anyone any embarrassment. I’m confident our team won’t let this become a distraction.” As much as he regrets what happened, O’Neill said an internet version of Thursday’s incident is grossly inaccurate. The website – a site devoted to Arizona basketball – reported that O’Neill and his wife, Roberta, were “visibly intoxicated” when they exchanged words with a group of Arizona supporters and that they had to be escorted from the hotel. The article also included pictures of O’Neill holding a drink as he posed with an Arizona fan at a restaurant earlier that evening. O’Neill said the photos were taken at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in Los Angeles, where he went with friends to celebrate Thursday’s 70-56 victory over California. O’Neill said he “had a few drinks” at the restaurant, where he engaged in friendly conversation with a handful of Arizona fans. O’Neill was Arizona’s interim coach from 2007-08. Later Thursday evening, O’Neill and his wife stopped by the JW Marriott – where the Trojans are staying during the Pac-10 tournament – to retrieve some items before returning to their home in Los Angeles. As the couple stepped off the elevator, O’Neill said he saw an Arizona booster with whom he was on bad terms. O’Neill declined to name the booster, but various internet reports have identified him as Paul Weitman, who is close friends with former Wildcats coach Lute Olson. O’Neill said he and the booster got into a verbal confrontation in the lobby and that his wife also became involved. He stressed that there was no physical contact and that the argument ended as soon as a security guard approached. “My wife and I walked away on our own, we got into a cab and went home,” said O’Neill, adding that he wasn’t intoxicated. “It shouldn’t have happened and I’m sorry that it did. “I just want to make it clear that this was someone I had a personal history with and not just some random Arizona fan off the street.”"

As a student who works for various student media organizations, I have had a few chances to interact with coach O’Neill. Each and every time, he has been a class act and an absolute thrill to interview and listen to. He has always impressed me as a person, and he should be commended for the job he has done here at USC in the past two years. In year 1, he didn’t really have a recruiting class and then Mike Garrett slapped a postseason ban on his team in an effort to save the football team. In year 2, O’Neill has put together a solid recruiting class with the likes of Maurice Jones and Garrett Jackson and has USC on the precipice of going dancing.

That being said, there would be no excuse for getting into an altercation with Arizona fans. I understand there is a history there because he once coached at the U of A, but O’Neill needs to keep his calm in that instance. If a player was drunkenly escorted out of a hotel bar after engaging opposing fans, I am sure they would face some sort of suspension. I am inclined to believe his version of the story and believe that the fan site sensationalized the incident and that it wasn’t as serious as purported.