USC Men’s Basketball: Fighting Cantus Reflect on Leader


Interim Head Coach Bob Cantu was granted quite the opportunity this season to manage the basketball program that he has assisted at for 12 seasons. Cantu took over the reigns of a disgruntled team, faltering in their last two seasons with a record of 13-36 and no sense of direction on either end of the court.

March 13, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans interim head coach Bob Cantu instructs against the Utah Utes during the first half in the first round of the Pac 12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans came out of the gate with speed, humor and a distinct relaxed persona that carried them through the midst of a rugged Pac-12 regular season. The Fightining Cantus infamous nickname held true to their character, a band of brothers that fought to the very end and always seemed to be waiting for their big break to arive.

Despite the change of coaching midway through the season, the Trojans played quality baskteball down the stretch, taking down goliaths in UCLA and Arizona. The Trojans finished the campaign under Bob Cantu with a losing record of 7-8, a record that epitomized the Trojans season full of mixed showings.

“I’m very fortunate to be at USC for 12 years,” Cantu said. “We have had great coaches, teams and players. I am thankful to our guys who worked hard at practice and games.”

This could be seen by the Trojans improvement in the win departement, more than doubling their win total from six to 14 this season.

The emotional highs and lows under Bob Cantu were nerve racking, yet revealed the true direction of this program. When Cantu held the reigns the players worked hard every day, played with confidence, and were not afraid to make the big mistakes. This type of mentality comes from his 15-plus years of coaching working his way up from the early days volunteering at Henry Bibby camps.

“Always gonna be forever grateful for what Cantu did this season,” Wesley said. “He is a good person, someone you always want to be around.”

His players respected his hard work, an in turn started to play a more watchable style of basketball. The Trojans became a three-point shooting machine, finishing the season making 34-percent of their shots from downtown.

The Trojans will now look to the offseason with three returning starters and a strong class of recruits to build upon for next season. Interim Head Coach Bob Cantu loved his players dearly, especially senior Jio Fontan, a man that will be severely missed at this program.

These type of relationships are what made Bob Cantu the perfect substitute teacher, to patch up the broken situation and show the conference his teams greatest strengths and weaknesses. Cantu recruited most of these players and played a large role in developing the transfers once they arrived in southern california.

“I am so thankful to be interim coach, working with these kids was incredible,” Cantu said.

During the post game press conference, Cantu seemed composed yet sincere about the appreciation he exhibits for this program, giving him the opportunity to finish out the season as the head coach for his beloved university. The Fighting Cantu’s may be extinguished in terms of NCAA chances, but the CIT Tournament could be a possibility.

When Cantu was asked about his future in terms of coaching he answered in the typical calm, composed and concise form we have come to appreciate. “I am grateful for this experience, but right now I am unsure of my future as the head coach of USC. ”

What is sure though, is that Cantu’s leadership breathed new life into this program and that with the right kind of coaching, USC hoops can be competitive once again.