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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Roy: USC hires O’Neill to keep drama oozing

    Kevin ONeill
    Kevin O’Neill

    USC basketball has devoured into Arizona’s sloppy seconds.

    Sour. Gross. Only in a town like Hollywood.

    Only fitting for the tabloids, only at USC would Tim Floyd’s downfall (which began with the interview for Arizona’s job) be succeeded by Arizona’s one-season stand.

    Kevin O’Neill, the ex-interim Wildcats coach that roughed up the kittens during the 2007-08 season, was hired to take over USC’s basketball program.

    (Technically it’s still called a basketball program, despite the lack of basketball or program).

    O’Neill’s hire just adds to the bizarre UA-USC recycling bin of coaches looking messier than Mia’s love triangle in “”Californication.””

    Recapping the past two seasons:

    -O’Neill becomes interim coach for Lute Olson.

    -O’Neill appointed Olson’s successor

    -O’Neill goes 19-15, fans grow to hate O’Neill.

    -Olson bounces O’Neill.

    -O’Neill leaves Arizona.

    -Olson retires (again).

    -Floyd interviews for UA opening.

    -Floyd turns down UA opening.

    -Floyd resigns from USC.

    -USC hires O’Neill.

    The lasting, defining image of the UA-USC coach dumpster resurfaces from 2008. Remember the Water Bottle Game when some knucklehead in the Zona Zoo chucked a water bottle at Tim Floyd? It signified the frustration that fans had in watching O’Neill’s team fold when it mattered most.

    O’Neill quickly grabbed the mic and scolded students for the bad behavior.

    “”We don’t do that here!”” yelled the Mad Scientist.

    Don’t do what here? Lose embarrassingly in McKale Center?

    Not coincidentally, the player of that game was the same O.J. Mayo (20 points, six assists) who allegedly received an envelope of cash from Floyd.

    Floyd resigned for those reasons.

    It wasn’t only the coaches. That sort of back-and-forth drama kept subplots like this going:

    -Four-star recruit Solomon Hill commits to Arizona.

    -Hill decommits.

    -Hill signs with USC.

    -Hill released from USC.

    -Hill signs with Arizona.

    “”If I didn’t believe in USC – and all of the people involved – I wouldn’t be putting my name and reputation on the line,”” O’Neill said.

    What reputation? The one fans in Tucson remember?

    It appears that, similar to his Tucson stint, O’Neill was hired to restore order in Troy the way he restored order in Tucson upon Olson’s sudden departure.

    Try reading that with a straight face.

    Funny, because up until this weekend, Arizona’s memories of O’Neill always sounded disorderly and a step back in the restoration process.

    Oh, reputation.

    While O’Neill has always claimed to have left Arizona on good terms, the respect isn’t mutual.

    Players at Arizona did not like playing for him. Discussing true feelings about O’Neill was always a taboo subject up until this season’s deep NCAA Tournament run, which suddenly tore down the gates and gave players a chance to talk without talking trash.

    In the locker room after the Wildcats beat Cleveland State to advance to the Sweet 16, I wondered what the difference was between O’Neill’s regime and this new Russ Pennell character.

    “”Why is this year’s team so different in big games like these?””

    Jamelle Horne laughed. Fendi Onobun did, too. Dumb question, I guess, but a question nobody officially answered up until that point.

    Until that point, it was like Roger Clemens denying steroid use. Nobody wanted to be the guy known as the media whore trashing his ex-coach. Nobody wanted to admit the truth.

    But it had to be difficult to always give the clichéd “”we just have better chemistry this year”” positive spin on this season, rather than, “”we were 14 guys that took 14 separate taxis to away games.””

    O’Neill certainly wasn’t Mike Garrett’s first choice. USC was reportedly turned down by C-listers like Reggie Theus, Jeff Van Gundy and Lon Kruger.

    Garrett wanted Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon so badly, he offered the job twice.

    Meanwhile, Arizona fans thought a polite “”no, thank you”” from Rick Pitino was the end of the world.

    “”I came to college for an experience that I definitely did not receive,”” ex-Wildcat Jerryd Bayless reflected one year after his experience under O’Neill.

    Circle your calendar on March 4, 2010. It’s the real homecoming, as far as anybody is concerned.

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