LOS ANGELES — USC athletic director Pat Haden announced Monday morning that head basketball coach Kevin O’Neill has been relieved of his duties.
The move comes on the heels of USC’s win at Utah on Saturday that snapped a 14-game road losing streak. In just over three seasons, O’Neill led the Trojans to a 48-65 record and was just 6-26 last season. The Trojans are off to a 7-10 start this season and are 2-2 in the Pac-12.
Bob Cantu, a 12-year assistant with USC, will take over the team on an interim basis while the school conducts a search for a successor.
“It was hard for me to evaluate him as a head coach until this year when he had enough players and veterans to compete,” Haden said in a statement. “As the season progressed, it became evident to me that we needed new leadership in our men’s basketball program.”
USC went 1-1 at Colorado and Utah this weekend, but Saturday’s 63-61 overtime win over the Utes was not convincing enough for Haden.
“Despite a nice road win in our last game, I felt it was best to make a change now,” Haden said. “With most of the Pac-12 season still ahead of us, in order to re-energize our team.”
Haden acknowledged the challenge that O’Neill had on his hands when taking over the program in 2009 after USC had been slapped with sanctions stemming from NCAA violations. He was named 2010 Pac-12 Coach of the Year by CollegeInsider.com, but the promise that O’Neill had was short-lived. The Trojans were largely considered a disappointment, reaching the NCAA tournament only once in his tenure and losing to VCU in the first round in 2011.
“I would like to thank Kevin O’Neill for his four years of service to USC,” Haden said. “He took over a program under difficult circumstances because of our NCAA issues and, despite that, he was able to do some good things.”
O’Neill encouraged recruits to honor their commitment to Troy and thanked USC for his time at the helm of the team.
“I enjoyed my four years at USC. It is a special place,” O’Neill said. “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.”
USC hosts Oregon and Oregon State this weekend at the Galen Center.