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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Iowa State’s Georges Niang provides visual evidence of his weight loss (PHOTO)

    Jul 25, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT

    niang Getty Images

    Didn’t believe Niang when he stated that he’d reshaped his body? Here’s visual evidence that he did.

  4. Rawle Alkins carries the torch as one of New York’s next great guards

    Jul 25, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    (adidas) (adidas)

    New York City guard Rawle Alkins is one player to monitor in the Class of 2016.

  5. College Basketball Talk’s Class of 2015 Draft

    Jul 25, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    If allowed to do so, how would a draft of the Class of 2015′s best players go? Here’s our attempt.

  6. Marcus Foster still hasn’t forgotten, or forgiven, those pulled scholarships

    Jul 25, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Texas native isn’t happy some Texas schools pulled their scholarship offers.

  7. Las Vegas Thursday Recap: Skal Labissiere, Stephen Zimmerman perform well

    Jul 25, 2014, 10:49 AM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Two of the nation’s best big men were on the same court Thursday, with Zimmerman’s Oakland Soldiers getting the win.

  8. UTPA head coach Dan Hipsher announces addition of Willie Watson to staff

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    UTPA Athletics UTPA Athletics

    Hipsher worked with Watson from 2009-11, when he was associate head coach at Alabama and Watson a grad assistant.

  9. Forward Nikola Vujovic won’t be joining Monmouth program

    Jul 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    King Rice AP

    Despite the fact that Vujovic made it through the NCAA Eligibility Center, Monmouth has decided to not admit him.

  10. Report: With Tennessee, FGCU in the past, Eric McKnight finds new landing spot

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT

    Florida Gulf Coast Eagles v San Diego State Aztecs Getty Images

    Eric McKnight’s waiver to play immediately was denied by the SEC.

  11. Head coach John Groce receives contract extension from Illinois

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    John Groce AP

    Groce is under .500 in Big Ten play in his two seasons at Illinois.

  12. Florida State announces non-conference slate that includes Florida, Nebraska

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:34 PM EDT

    hamilton AP

    Florida State will play five non-conference games against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last season.

  13. Kentucky’s freshman try on their uniforms (PHOTOS)

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    @specialk44 @specialk44

    The four latest five-star recruits that Cal landed all showed off their Kentucky threads on instagram.

  14. Tennessee gets some big news regarding freshman Detrick Mostella (VIDEO)

    Jul 24, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 5.58.11 PM

    Mostella has travelled a long road to get to Knoxville.

  15. Former Oregon guard Brandon Austin has found a landing spot

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    image

    Austin has found a landing place, but it’s still a long way from the Division I ranks.

  16. Stanford’s non-conference schedule is strong

    Jul 24, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    dawkins Getty Images

    Three true road games and a visit from the reigning champs?

  17. Thon Maker’s guardian: It’s ‘not very likely’ that he will reclassify

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    Thon Maker is a top five recruit in 2016 and would be a top two or three recruit in 2015.

  18. Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg returns to practice, but not to recruiting

    Jul 24, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Hoiberg had surgery to replace his pacemaker last week.

  19. Two new regular season college hoops events headed to Vegas

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

    IjMOm5u

    The events will be played in November and December

  20. Kansas recruit Svi Mykhailiuk scores 19 in U18 Euro debut

    Jul 24, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Mykhailiuk is playing in the B Division of the event.