Tuesday, January 15, 2013

USC Fires O'Neill, Who Shows Class In Departure

USC fired head coach Kevin O'Neill after a 7-10 start to the season. (sbnation.com)

USC's Kevin O'Neill has been the first college basketball coach fired this season, as he was told of the decision Monday.

This wasn't a huge surprise to anyone who has even vaguely kept up with the program. O'Neill and the Trojans are 7-10 this season in the coach's fourth year at the school after going 6-26 a season ago and only winning one game in PAC-12 play.

It may have been O'Neill's undoing by relying on a group of transfers to turn the program around this season with the coach already on the hot seat. It's difficult to get the chemistry meshed well early in the season, and although the team showed improvement from last year, it wasn't enough.

O'Neill didn't get the program turned around like some expected, but O'Neill handled a situation that was difficult from the start with class. It couldn't have been easy replacing Tim Floyd, who left in 2009 after NCAA violation allegations. With hardly any recruits, O'Neill still got the Trojans to a winning record, and then a NCAA Tournament appearance the next year.

He could have easily felt like he didn't have enough time or that this wasn't his fault. Starting your tenure in that situation doesn't give a lot of room for immediate improvement. Maybe he thought he should have been given the rest of the season to see what these transfers could do. He may have thought it, but O'Neill didn't lash out or criticize his new former employer. In an interview with ESPN.com Monday, O'Neill said:

"I have nothing but great things to say about the university. It's a great place."

"It's disappointing any time you don't win enough. That's what it comes down to in this business, winning enough. I'm disappointed I couldn't do a better job for the players."

These quotes may sound standard, but don't take them for granted. Too often sports figures, and everyone else for that matter, look to publicly place the blame on others and leave on worse terms than are necessary. O'Neill understands the business and what the job entails, that much is certain. He wasn't feeling sorry for himself, like some would, instead he was feeling sorry for the players by not being able to get the job done. It may not be how he truly feels, but handling himself in this manner will probably help him get back on his feet.

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