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. Ball is Life offers a unique look at the Under Armour Association, road to Elite 24, in new video

    Aug 3, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    A cool documentary-style approach to the Under Armour Association in preparation for the Elite 24.

  2. Nebraska hopes foreign trip can give young players experience

    Aug 3, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Nebraska is hoping a four-game trip in Spain helps with their freshmen.

  3. Report: Baylor forward will leave the program

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Baylor is losing a reserve forward to transfer.

  4. Report: Four-star forward could choose a school soon

    Aug 3, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/adidas) (Kelly Kline/adidas)

    Mamadi Diakite, a four-star forward, could decide between three schools soon, per a report.

  5. Fixing his flaws: How Kris Dunn has attacked the two weaknesses in his game

    Aug 3, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    There are two glaring weaknesses to Kris Dunn’s game. Here’s how he’s gone about trying to fix them this summer.

  6. Penn State lands their most important recruit in a decade in Tony Carr

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    chambers Getty Images

    Tony Carr is a four-star point guard that picked Penn State over Maryland, SMU and Providence.

  7. Investigation funded by Illinois clears Illinois women’s coaches of racism claims

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:29 PM EDT

    Matt Bollant (AP Photo) AP

    The investigation was conducted by an outside law firm and paid for by the university.

  8. Five-star guard Rawle Alkins cuts his list to ten

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Alkins might be the best player from New York City since Lance Stephenson.

  9. Michigan announces non-conference schedule

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The schedule isn’t the best you’ll see this season, but it’s pretty solid nonetheless.

  10. Four-star 2016 combo guard cuts list to four

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    St. John’s remains under consideration for the Brooklyn native.

  11. 2018 power forward Jontay Porter commits to Washington

    Aug 2, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT

    Lorenzo Romar AP

    He’s the younger brother of five-star 2017 forward Michael Porter Jr., and Michael Sr. considered joining the Washington staff this spring.

  12. UTEP adds four-star forward Brodricks Jones, former San Diego State commit

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    Tim Floyd AP

    With Vince Hunter in the professional ranks and Matt Willms dealing with a foot issue, this is an important pickup for the Miners.

  13. Report: Two official visits set for five-star Class of 2016 shooting guard

    Aug 2, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz will take two official visits once he leaves adidas Nations.

  14. POSTERIZED: Wenyen Gabriel dunks on defender at adidas Nations

    Aug 2, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Wenyen Gabriel’s tremendous summer only got better with this off-handed throw down on a defender.

  15. Xavier gets commitment from four-star guard

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Xavier added another piece in the 2016 class with a guard commitment.

  16. N.C. State secures commitment from four-star 2015 wing

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:33 PM EDT

    Mark Gottfried (AP Photo) Mark Gottfried (AP Photo)

    N.C. State added a dynamic wing scorer late in their 2015 recruiting efforts on Sunday as reclassified 6-foot-7 wing Maverick Rowan committed to the Wolfpack. A three-level scorer, Rowan was previously committed to Pitt and later backed off of his pledge to the Panthers before deciding to move up a grade by taking two summer…

  17. Texas A&M finishes 2015 recruiting efforts with late guard commitment

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Texas A&M finished off a tremendous 2015 recruiting class with one more combo guard.

  18. 2017 power forward/center verbally commits to Arkansas

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Mike Anderson AP

    After a rough July that included suspensions and a recruit heading to prep school, Arkansas received some good news on the first day of August.

  19. Three-star shooting guard becomes Wake Forest’s second 2016 commitment

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Danny Manning AP

    Brandon Childress, son of Wake Forest great Randolph Childress, was the first commit in the class for the Demon Deacons.