USC fires head coach and former UA interim Kevin O'Neill

2013-01-14T10:02:00Z 2013-01-14T11:57:55Z USC fires head coach and former UA interim Kevin O'NeillBy Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 14, 2013 10:02 am  • 

Kevin O'Neill, who guided the Arizona Wildcats for one season before taking over at USC, was fired by the Trojans today.

Bob Cantu, a longtime assistant who served as the interim after O'Neill was suspended during the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament, was promoted to interim coach while USC looks for a permanent replacement.

"I would like to thank Kevin O'Neill for his four years of service to USC," athletic director Pat Haden said in a release issued by the university. "He took over a program under difficult circumstances because of our NCAA issues and, despite that, he was able to do some good things.

"It was hard for me to evaluate him as a head coach until this year when he had enough players and veterans to compete. As the season progressed, it became evident to me that we needed new leadership in our men's basketball program. Despite a nice road win in our last game, I felt it was best to make a change now, with most of the Pac-12 season still ahead of us, in order to re-energize our team."

O'Neill, who went 48-65 in conference play, had led the Trojans to a 7-10 (2-2 Pac-12) record in the young season. USC had lost nine of its past 13 games.

"I enjoyed my four years at USC," O'Neill said in a release. "It is a special place. I enjoyed the people I worked with, the players I coached and our fans. I thank USC for allowing me to guide their program. I couldn't be more proud to work anywhere.

"I would encourage all of our recruits to honor their commitment to USC and help build the Trojan program in the right direction."

O'Neill served as a UA assistant from 1986-89 and returned in the 2007-08 season. In November 2007, head coach Lute Olson took an indefinite leave of absence, and O'Neill ran the team. 

He was declared the designated successor for Olson a month later. When Olson returned, he announced O'Neill would not be part of the coaching staff.

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