USC‘s loss to Minnesota wasn’t just a loss to a more talented team. The Trojans looked disinterested and their collective effort was lacking against a team motivated to give head coach Tubby Smith his 500th career win.
It’s the Trojans’ fifth consecutive loss and while you can argue their schedule has been tough against three nationally ranked teams, their on-court play has been nothing less than disappointing. They have trouble scoring or maintaining any sense of consistency. You can blame that on the amount of transfers but at some point, you need to see some type of progress.
That’s where looking at Kevin O’Neill comes in. In his four years as head coach, USC has gone from an exciting team to a boring bunch that has become a struggle to watch. I had high hopes thinking they’d be significantly improved from last year but instead they look like a replay of last year where they set Pac-12 hoops back years with their offensive ineptitude.
His career record at USC as of this writing is 44-61. He’s only guided the Trojans to one postseason appearance, where they lost in the First Four to Virginia Commonwealth. Most importantly, he’s lost his last three games against UCLA to even his overall record against them (3-3).
O’Neill has the reputation of being a defensive taskmaster and not being able to relate to his players. It’s a big reason why he didn’t last long in Arizona replacing Lute Olson and it’s not a surprise that it’s affected his USC tenure. He’s already seen Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV), Maurice Jones (Iowa State) and Alexis Moore (Saddleback College) transfer in the last few years and his inability to generate any offense has been maddening to watch.
You can argue that last year was a fluke due to several key injuries. But then how do you explain this year’s struggles with a better team. Just for comparison’s sake, let’s look at Tim Floyd‘s last three years at USC.
2006-07: Advanced to the Sweet Sixteen behind future NBA pro Nick Young.
2007-08: Made the NCAA Tournament again but it has been stricken from the records after OJ Mayo was declared ineligible.
2008-09: Won the Pac-10 Tournament behind DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Say what you want about that era, but that was USC’s best run in the last 10 years. Since then, it’s devolved back into second-fiddle status in Los Angeles and the level of play has been abysmal. If Ben Howland over at UCLA is on the hot seat for poor results and players leaving over the last five seasons, what should keep O’Neill from being on it for doing worse with less.
The Trojans will feast on easy competition the rest of the way until conference play starts. Yet should USC miss the tournament for the third time in four seasons while continuing to struggle mightily, it’s time to part ways with O’Neill and start over.