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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    O’Neill to stay for now

    UA assistant mens basketball coach Kevin ONeill looks for answers in the Wildcats 75-65 loss to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 20 in Washington, D.C. ONeill said yesterday he plans on fulfilling his contract at Arizona but will remain open to available jobs elsewhere.
    UA assistant men’s basketball coach Kevin O’Neill looks for answers in the Wildcats’ 75-65 loss to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 20 in Washington, D.C. O’Neill said yesterday he plans on fulfilling his contract at Arizona but will remain open to available jobs elsewhere.

    Men’s Hoops Notes

    Three volleyball nets were set up across Lute and Bobbi Olson Court yesterday in McKale Center, a visual reminder that the 2007-08 men’s basketball season has been over for a week.

    Meanwhile, Kevin O’Neill, who served as interim head coach for the Wildcats while head coach Lute Olson was out for medical reasons, sat before a group of media in McKale for his end-of-the-season press conference.

    “”I wish we were still playing, but we’re not,”” he said.

    The statement is simple, unlike O’Neill’s future with the program.

    The coach indirectly said he’ll return to the program next season, but sometimes contradicted himself during the media session.

    “”I have a two-year commitment and I plan on honoring that commitment,”” O’Neill said. “”To me, if you have commitments and things work out, you should definitely honor them. I’m planning on doing that. I don’t think it’s a problem at all.””

    But moments later, O’Neill said he’d be open to other jobs as well, college or pro.

    “”It doesn’t make sense not to listen,”” he said. “”… You hear from people all the time.””

    O’Neill said he plans on coaching for another 25 years at one level or another and leaving for a different coaching position would depend on the situation.

    “”If someone called me and offered me $3 million to coach the Charlotte Bobcats, I’d do that,”” said O’Neill, who made $725,000 this past season.

    And still, O’Neill said he’ll stick around to succeed Olson, an arrangement announced by UA athletics director Jim Livengood on Dec. 6.

    “”I think you’d have to talk to Jim about that,”” O’Neill said of the succession plan. “”But as I sit here today, I plan on being the next coach, too. Lute’s planning on fulfilling his contract (through the 2010-11 season), so that’s a long ways off before that happens.””

    O’Neill reinforced the fact that he would stay by referring to the team as “”we”” when discussing that Olson will determine the kind of defense the Wildcats play next year, but he also said he’ll get together with his agent in Chicago in April to discuss the future.

    The tricky part about that is the two meet at the same time every year “”no matter if I have six years left on a contract or six days left,”” O’Neill said. “”I’m in no rush to do anything.””

    O’Neill said he sat down with Olson on Tuesday and “”had a great talk. A very positive talk.”” He added the return of the Hall-of-Famer is a “”major-league plus for the program.””

    But O’Neill’s move to assistant coach doesn’t faze him at all, at least not as far as his title goes.

    “”I’ve been from being an assistant and a head coach for the last 20 years anyway between the NBA and all that kind of stuff,”” O’Neill said.

    That’s the way he’s felt for a while now.

    “”I’m not worried,”” O’Neill said of his title Dec. 6. “”I’ve been called a lot worse than an interim coach; assistant coach, a coach-in-waiting.””

    O’Neill said the only thing he regretted this past season was not winning more and that the athletes were hurt by it.

    “”I just feel bad for the players because they didn’t expect the situation that transpired,”” O’Neill said. “”Neither did I. I came here to be an assistant for a couple of years and then who knows what.””

    Killer Bs should get professional advice

    O’Neill said he’s giving the players space, but if guard Jerryd Bayless and forward Chase Budinger call him for advice about whether they should enter the NBA Draft, he’ll give them his opinion.

    “”If they don’t, I’ll understand that,”” O’Neill said.

    The coach, who’s said in the past that a top-10 pick should go to the draft, said “”every player nationwide should probably come back that is an underclassman.””

    He suggested players looking at the draft should talk to several NBA general managers for their opinions.

    “”Those guys aren’t going to lie to you,”” he said of the managers. “”An agent might lie to you. Your friend you play beer pong with might tell you, ‘Hey, I think you are a lottery pick,’ or whatever it may be. … GMs are not going to lie to you.””

    Jennings plays in McDonald’s game; Bayless reported to return

    UA signee Brandon Jennings played in the McDonald’s All-American game last night in Milwaukee, dishing out nine assists, pulling down five rebounds and scoring 12 points – eight in the final two minutes.

    It wasn’t enough, though, as the West team was defeated 107-102 by the East.

    Jennings, who played with a Kid ‘n Play style haircut, was just four assists shy of the McDonald’s record, serving up highlight-reel ally-oops off the backboard to Jrue Holiday (UCLA) and Demar DeRozan (USC). The guard got the same treatment from an off-the-glass pass from Holiday in the final minute of the game.

    ESPN commentator Doug Gottlieb said during the game that UA guard Jerryd Bayless told Jennings he would return to Arizona
    next season.

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