Trojans pick tough guy over native Reggie Theus
On Monday, at a news conference, new USC basketball coach Kevin Oâ€™Neill says he is ready to take the basketball program forward amid NCAA sanctions and allegations that former coach Tim Floyd paid OJ Mayoâ€™s confidant cash.
Oâ€™Neal may not have been the popular choice among Southern California basketball recruits, but for Trojan Athletic Director Mike Garrett he was the best choice.
Top Recruit Gary Franklin of Santa Ana Mater Dei High School has already backed out of his commitment to attend the school and another, Dwayne Polee Jr. of Westchester High School, is likely to follow.
Theus, a former Inglewood High star and head coach at New Mexico State and the NBAâ€™s Sacramento Kings, first sought the Arizona coaching job and then appeared to be the logical choice for the Trojans.
He had many things going for him including relationships with high level recruits and the ability to take a collegiate program to the NCAA tournament, but Garret was not thrilled with his high octane run and gun offense and went with an defensive minded coach.
Another potential possibility would have been former UCLA coach Steve Lavin, who upon being named Bruins coach at just 32 inherited similar circumstances when coach Jim Harrick was fired for meeting recruits at a dinner.
Without any support from the athletic director or the school administration Lavin excelled, but was ousted after one bad season six years later.
Now working as an ESPN analyst, heâ€™s been out of coaching for six years and while sources say that he would have been interested in the job never got to the interview table with Garrett.
Thus Oâ€™Neill, who was the interim coach at Arizona two seasons ago and rumored to replace Lute Olson, will take the reigns in the face of adversity.
With an extensive collegiate background and experience of coaching on the professional level, he meets the criteria of coaches that Garrett has hired before in football coach Pete Carroll and Floyd.
Now, weâ€™ll wait and see if he can take a wrecked ship and put it back into charted waters again.