Skip to content

What Kevin O’Neill did wrong

Jan 14, 2013, 11:09 PM EST

Kevin O'Neill AP

So the three-and-a-half year tenure of Kevin O’Neill ended today at USC. First of all, it’s never good to see a coach, and especially a good guy like O’Neill, lose their job. Here’s to hoping he lands on his feet quickly, which he should. He’s a fantastic basketball mind.

But what cost him his job? A few things.

Failure to recruit Los Angeles well

I thought about this after seeing a tweet from Josh Gershon of Scout.com.

That’s a huge mistake by O’Neill. Much like not recruiting New York City as the coach of St. John’s or Chicago at DePaul (though at this point…). You have to be able to keep the home base as your home base. Although, in fairness, UCLA splits it with them. This season? One player from the actual city of Los Angeles in Brendyn Taylor. Excluding his first season, in which he was playing with a number of Tim Floyd’s players, O’Neill brought in five total Los Angeles recruits. He also went after guys that left pundits scratching their heads. That’s totally unacceptable for the fanbase.

Injuries or not, 2011-12 cost him

Injuries aren’t something a coach can control. Players get hurt. But even after the variable infirmary O’Neill had in his training room last season, the 6-25 record that came out of it signaled a complete loss of everything. Players, effort, talent. It also signaled what O’Neill’s teams had when faced with adversity. O’Neill couldn’t help it. These are college kids. But even glossing over who was healthy, they had enough to at least compete in a Pac-12 Conference that sent just two teams to the NCAA Tournament. Which brings me to this…

Inability to compete in the Pac-12

Injuries or not, the Pac-12 has routinely been one of the worst of the Power Six conferences in O’Neill’s four seasons in L.A. With that, programs expect to all be able to compete, even if that’s because everyone is on the same level of mediocrity. In his three-and-a-half years, his teams were 21-37 in Pac-10/Pac-12 play, with their best record being 10-8 in 2010-11 when they squeaked into the NCAA Tournament at 19-15. Things have improved a bit this season, and when the Trojans didn’t, O’Neill got the axe.

No signature player

From a straight-up on-the-court perspective, O’Neill was never able to bring in a dynamic player that defined his team. Before him, Floyd brought in O.J. Mayo (even if it eventually got him ousted). Every solid team has one and he failed to get one. From the looks of it, maybe O’Neill though Jio Fontan could be that guy. While he’s been the best player on the team, he hasn’t been a guy that can put a program on his back.

These are a few reasons O’Neill is no longer employed by USC. He’s a great coach and shouldn’t have any trouble finding a program that needs his services, but you can’t have all these things and keep your job.

David Harten is the editor and founder of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Latest Posts
  1. Eastern Kentucky’s 3-point shooting leads to blowout win over No. 18 Miami

    Dec 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EST

    AP AP

    Eastern Kentucky had 14 threes. Miami had 12 field goals.

  2. adidas puts wrong logo on Duje Dukan’s Wisconsin warmups (PHOTO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 8:59 PM EST

    Duje Dukan AP

    The senior forward is apparently playing for the Wisconsin Bearcats.

  3. New Year’s Resolutions: Villanova Wildcats

    Dec 19, 2014, 7:30 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Villanova is off to another good start in the regular season, but heading into the New Year, the Wildcats will need to rack up the wins in postseason play.

  4. Markus Kennedy cleared to play immediately for SMU

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:49 PM EST

    AP AP

    The SMU forward missed the first 10 games.

  5. Two players questionable for Florida’s game against Wake Forest

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Gators could be shorthanded once again in Saturday’s non-conference contest with Wake Forest.

  6. Injured Indiana forward to return to school this spring

    Dec 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Landon Atterberry Devin Davis AP

    The Indiana sophomore was struck by a vehicle driven by a teammate back in November.

  7. FGCU announces addition of former VCU power forward

    Dec 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EST

    VCU v George Washington Getty Images

    Antravious Simmons averaged 0.7 points and 0.7 rebounds as a redshirt freshman at VCU.

  8. Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: No. 3 Arizona among three ranked teams in action

    Dec 19, 2014, 3:27 PM EST

    Stanley Johnson AP

    The Wildcats are on the road to take on one of Conference USA’s best teams in UTEP, and both No. 18 Miami and No. 20 St. John’s are in action as well.

  9. Injured senior guard leaves St. Bonaventure program

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:44 PM EST

    La Salle Explorers v St. Bonaventure Bonnies Getty Images

    Jordan Gathers had yet to play in a game this season after undergoing hip surgery in June.

  10. One suitor for Duke transfer hopes to land him despite not having an available scholarship

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:26 PM EST

    Livingstone v Duke Getty Images

    Kansas State is one of many programs looking to land Semi Ojeleye, but all of their scholarships are accounted for currently.

  11. POSTERIZED: UNLV commit Derrick Jones throws one down with force (VIDEO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:04 PM EST

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Jones’ dunk on five-star forward Cody Riley is one of the best you’ll see this year.

  12. New Year’s Resolutions: Duke Blue Devils

    Dec 19, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    When you talk Duke basketball in 2014-15, you start with Player of the Year candidate Jahlil Okafor, but there are plenty of other keys to Duke’s success as we get closer to the new year.

  13. Weekend Preview: A loaded Saturday slate highlights the weekend

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Dakarai Allen, Nigel Williams-Goss AP

    Oklahoma-Washington, Ohio State-North Carolina and UCLA-Kentucky are just three of the marquee matchups.

  14. Rebounding, foul shooting help No. 2 Duke make up for 19 turnovers in win over UConn

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:41 AM EST

    Mike Krzyzewski Mike Krzyzewski

    Even with the win there are things Duke needs to improve upon, most notably the fact that they’ve committed 36 turnovers over the last two games.

  15. Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Duke, No. 6 Virginia move to 10-0

    Dec 18, 2014, 10:45 PM EST

    Ryan Boatright, Tyus Jones Ryan Boatright, Tyus Jones

    Also of note was Ole Miss avoiding what would have been their fourth home loss of the season.

  16. Right foot injury to sideline Tennessee forward for at least one game

    Dec 18, 2014, 8:44 PM EST

    Steve Taylor Jr., Kevin Punter, Jabari McGhee AP

    Jabari McGhee suffered the injury in Tennessee’s loss to NC State on Wednesday.

  17. Michigan State starting forward to miss next two games with non-displaced wrist fracture

    Dec 18, 2014, 7:09 PM EST

    Branden Dawson, Brandon Nazione AP

    Branden Dawson is the team’s leading rebounder, as he’s grabbing 8.7 boards per contest.