Skip to content

What Kevin O’Neill did wrong

Jan 14, 2013, 11:09 PM EDT

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. 6-foot-10 power forward becomes Virginia’s fourth 2016 commitment

    May 21, 2015, 10:40 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The slender forward joins Sacha Killeya-Jones, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy in Virginia’s 2016 haul.

  2. Power forward becomes Texas Tech’s fourth 2015 commitment

    May 21, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

    2014 Adidas Nations Getty Images

    Davis joins grassroots teammate C.J. Williamson Jr. in Texas Tech’s 2015 recruiting haul.

  3. North Carolina’s Roy Williams discusses impact of NCAA investigation on recruiting

    May 21, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    UNC fell short in the race for Brandon Ingram, and the investigation was a big reason why.

  4. Matchups for Basketball Hall of Fame Classic announced

    May 21, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    John Calipari will coach against former assistant Orlando Antigua November 27 in Miami.

  5. Georgia Tech lands second graduate student in former UALR forward

    May 21, 2015, 6:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The Jonesboro, Georgia native averaged 11.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a redshirt junior at UALR.

  6. Sports book lists Maryland as early favorite to win national title

    May 21, 2015, 4:58 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Last spring Mark Turgeon was seen by some as being on the “hot seat.” This spring, one sports book believes he’s got the early favorite to win the national title in 2016.

  7. John Calipari is selling his program when he says national title isn’t a goal

    May 21, 2015, 2:09 PM EDT

    150521calipari Getty Images

    Cal is always selling his program, and his latest viral quote is no different.

  8. Ben Howland lands commitment from four-star forward from Kentucky

    May 21, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Holman was expected to spend 2015-16 at a prep school.

  9. LSU’s ’25 is coming’ campaign doesn’t try to hide that they’re monetizing Ben Simmons

    May 21, 2015, 10:34 AM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    But this overt display of ‘amateurism’ may actually be good for the fight for student-athlete rights.

  10. St. John’s lands 2015 point guard Marcus LoVett Jr.

    May 21, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    The Red Storm are now up to seven newcomers with this addition.

  11. Iowa State AD urges fans to remain calm over Fred Hoiberg possibilities

    May 20, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    AP AP

    While Chicago has been discussed for quite some time as a franchise that may approach “The Mayor,” they still have a head coach in Tom Thibodeau.

  12. Wake Forest reinstates suspended guard

    May 20, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Jones was suspended two weeks after the team’s season came to an end.

  13. Sophomore center transferring from Ole Miss

    May 20, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The news came one day after former Liberty forward Tomasz Gielo transferred to Ole Miss.

  14. Former St. John’s commit headed to Boston College

    May 20, 2015, 6:06 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Boston College was in need of additional backcourt depth, and this addition helps.

  15. Maryland headlines field for 2015 Cancun Challenge

    May 20, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Maryland’s the class of the field, but Rhode Island also has hopes of using this as a springboard into the NCAA tournament.

  16. Highlight tape from Jamal Murray, latest Canadian HS star (VIDEO)

    May 20, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Murray is the hot name on the recruiting circuit these days.