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. July Live Period Week Three Superlatives

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    The best of the best from the final week of the July live evaluation period from Las Vegas and Louisville.

  2. Ben Simmons does not make Australia’s national team

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT

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

    Thon Maker won’t be on the team either, but it is loaded with former college stars.

  3. Skal Labissiere is considering Europe, but that doesn’t mean there’s a market for him

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    "NBPA Top 100 Camp"

    Skal Labissiere may want to go to Europe. That does not mean Europe wants him.

  4. Official visit schedule set for five-star 2015 center Stephen Zimmerman

    Jul 27, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Despite not being included among the five official visits, Indiana and UNLV remain options for Zimmerman.

  5. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell breaks his second backboard of the summer

    Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Nearly three months after breaking a backboard during a pickup game, the rising junior took out another one this weekend.

  6. Arizona commit Ray Smith calls ACL tear ‘a blessing’

    Jul 27, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT

    ray-smith

    Ray Smith tore his ACL earlier this month.

  7. Assigned Reading: Michael Hausfeld, the man taking on the NCAA

    Jul 27, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Ed O’Bannon’s lead attorney didn’t even know who he was when he first met him.

  8. Kwe Parker throws down 360 cradle dunk … again (VIDEO)

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    picresized_th_1406475062_Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 11.28.23 AM

    It’s been a summer of viral dunks for the 6-foot-2 recruit

  9. Las Vegas Saturday Recap: Bennie Boatwright, Justin Simon lead Dream Vision into adidas Super 64 semis

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Also some notes on junior college guard Andre Spight and 2015 guard Justin Foreman.

  10. North Carolina announces plans for program that aims to help former athletes complete their degree

    Jul 26, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

    Nate Britt, Roy Williams AP

    North Carolina is the latest school making the positive step of looking to help its former athletes obtain their college degrees.

  11. Saint Louis will need some of six-man recruiting class to step up in 2014-15

    Jul 26, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Jim Crews AP

    With Saint Louis losing five experienced seniors, the incoming freshman class could be expected to contribute immediately this season.

  12. Two surprises after first cuts at Team USA U17 trials

    Jul 26, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    usa-logo-color1

    Two top five players in the Class of 2016 were sent home.

  13. Las Vegas Friday Recap: Jaylen Brown, Kobi Simmons among standouts

    Jul 26, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Brown also mentioned plans of taking an unofficial visit to UCLA following adidas Nations.

  14. USA Basketball session one highlights (VIDEO)

    Jul 26, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports) (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

    USA Basketball has a lot of talent in the building this week for the U17 World Championship camp.

  15. Florida commit KeVaughn Allen puts together an impressive Peach Jam (VIDEO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Florida commit KeVaughn Allen had a great week at Peach Jam.

  16. Report: Dismissed Delaware guard Jarvis Threatt turning pro

    Jul 25, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Jordan Henriquez, Jarvis Threatt Jordan Henriquez, Jarvis Threatt

    Former Delaware guard Jarvis Threatt is turning pro after being dismissed from the program in June.