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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Commentary: Should fans boo Kevin O’Neill?

Alan Walsh/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Pro: Why the hell not?

This is Kevin O’Neill, the dictator who never spoke to his assistant coaches.

This is O’Neill, the heir who stubbornly stuck to man-to-man defense with a team too slow to rotate — allowing a zillion 3-pointers.

This is O’Neill, the successor who played the slowest, grind-it-to-the core offense with one of the most explosive combo guards in the conference — Jerryd Bayless.

Bayless was such an athlete he overcame those barriers — dropping 30-plus points in three straight games in the Pacific 10 Conference that season— but others weren’t.

The raw athletic talent of Jordan Hill wasn’t quick enough on his feet to play solid defense down low — usually resulting in three fouls by midway through the first half. O’Neill would bench him and leave it to Kirk Walters.

Yes, Walters would be up against guys like Kevin Love, Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez.

O’Neill only went six players deep some games because he couldn’t trust the bench. Just ask Jamelle Horne, the only junior remaining from the O’Neill regime.

It’s hard to not like a guy who has never said anything bad about the UA basketball program — to the point where it’s almost a memorized response to the prompt:

“”After the way the University of Arizona treated you during Lute Olson’s awkward exit, how do you feel about the program?””

His response goes something like:

“”I wouldn’t trade my experience at Arizona for anything. It was a great opportunity to work with great people and I have nothing but great things to say about the fans and Tucson.””

Aside from that, O’Neill always spoke his mind — never a dull moment (or whiteboard).

And for that, unleash one final ‘boo’ to O’Neill — a guy too tough for Arizona’s 2007-08 roster.


Con: O’Neil should be thanked, not booed

In the next couple days Arizona fans will prepare poster boards and insults for Saturday’s matchup with USC as former Arizona interim head coach Kevin O’Neill returns to McKale Center for the first time since being unceremoniously let go by Lute Olson.

But before anyone boos O’Neill they need to ask themselves: Why am I booing him?

Is it simply because he is the head coach at USC — which is highly unlikely — or is because he was the interim coach during Arizona’s most tumultuous season?

Talking to many fans around the Tucson community, most paint O’Neil as the bad guy, it’s almost as if he’s used as the scapegoat to explain the 2007-08 season.

Whether it’s the rumors that players didn’t like playing for the often-strict coach or the fact that he and Olson couldn’t see eye to eye toward the end, many who support Arizona basketball developed a dislike for O’Neill without even having a legitimate reason.

The funniest part is when you ask someone why they dislike O’Neil sometimes they really don’t know.

It wasn’t his fault that Olson took a leave of absence and he coached the team under his philosophy. It wasn’t his fault that the team, as a whole was soft, and wouldn’t buy into his hardnosed defensive scheme, which is quite similar to challenges current Arizona head coach Sean Miller has dealt with this season.

Sure O’Neill had a temper and a mouth that should have a parental advisory taped to it, but the man was, and is, a good coach.

It’s no coincidence that before the Trojans had a postseason ban placed on its basketball program midway through the season, they were one of the surprise teams in the entire country. The same program that watched three of its recruits de-commit to sign at Arizona and was considered by most a disaster will finish with an equal or better overall record than the Wildcats.

O’Neil has done the same thing at USC as he did during his one year stint at Arizona, make the best of a screwed up situation.

O’Neill did the best he could under the circumstances he was handed and people forget that he did extend the precious NCAA tournament streak that will likely come to an end in the next couple weeks.

Fans have the right to boo the opposing team’s coach, but to place blame on O’Neill for what wasn’t his fault is a bit ridiculous.

But fans will be fans and yell out the most outrageous chants but the before the insults begin, at least say thank you first.

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