Intern Michael Schwartz, is a USC student and a writer for the school’s paper, the Daily Trojan.
USC hiring Kevin O’Neill to replace Tim Floyd this week wasn’t exactly a headline grabber; the move mostly elicited a collective raising of the eyebrow from most of the media. Then again, dreams of landing a Jamie Dixon-like coach were far fetched. But it was odd that USC AD Mike Garrett decided to replace Floyd, a polarizing disciplinarian known for slowing the game down and emphasizing defense with … wait for it … O’Neill, a polarizing disciplinarian known for slowing the game down and emphasizing defense. At least we know Garrett has a type.
What he’s able to accomplish with the program, however, won’t be as interesting as following whether or not he goes completely nanners in trying to turn a tanking program around.
O’Neill is well-documented as being intense, but what’s most interesting is that it’s yet to be seen whether he’s toned down his personality, even if he’s claimed he has. Sure, maybe he’s beyond the days of locking Tom Tolbert in a laundry room in order to get him to sign with Arizona, but he’s got a history of meltdowns, like when he broke a chalkboard at Pauley Pavilion two years ago. And by all accounts, he still swears like he’s in a 2 Live Crew tribute group, cursing anywhere between 30 and 100 times in a given game, depending on who you ask.
He’s also not above booing his own players, as he did in his stay with Tennessee.
O’Neill reserved most of his vitriol for his players, in private and in public. One practice, point guard Alico Dunk struggled with the press break. O’Neill grew so annoyed with Dunk that he left the court, took a seat in the stands and, for the next 15 minutes, booed him.
Then there was the game at Arkansas when O’Neill sent reserve Jason Moore onto the floor. Moore made a handful of mistakes, and Tennessee’s lead evaporated. O’Neill screamed at Moore: You better hope you DIE before halftime!
Is anyone else worried about what Los Angeles traffic is going to do to this guy?
In his introductory press conference, O’Neill described himself as “not Darth Vader,” a label that is sure to attract all of the coddled high school basketball players out there. Not sold: Gary Franklin, a 2010 point guard who decided O’Neill’s style wasn’t conducive to his skill set.