Bob Cantu, who served as interim head basketball coach at USC after Kevin O'Neill was fired last January but was let go at the end of the season when Andy Enfield was hired, is officially an assistant coach at the University of Texas at El Paso under another former Trojans coach, Tim Floyd.
"When I heard Greg had left for the 76ers, I told Tim I was interested in the position," Cantu said. "He was surprised. He didn't think I'd be interested. We talked about it and that was that."
Cantu, who has yet to visit El Paso, said that being a head coach, even briefly, will make him a better assistant.
"It sounds funny to say," Cantu said, "but I'm more prepared now, after the USC experience, to be an assistant."
He also said he thinks USC basketball fans should be excited about the team Enfield will have.
"J.T. Terrell and Byron Wesley are as good as anybody in the Pac-12 on the perimeter," Cantu said. "Omar Oraby, if he can stay out of foul trouble, should be one of the top centers. I think that team should be in the upper half of the conference for sure."
Cantu worked under three coaches — four if you count the very short tenure of Rick Majerus — at USC. He was hired by Henry Bibby and kept by both Floyd and O'Neill. Majerus had the job less than a week before changing his mind.
"That's really unusual, I know," Cantu said. "But I appreciated coaching for the different guys. You learn from everybody. I'll always be grateful to USC."
Under Floyd, Cantu said he learned a lot about recruiting and defense.
"I liked the NBA defensive sets he ran," Cantu said. "And I learned a lot about identifying the best players to recruit. Tim has a great eye for talent."
Cantu also said he was eager to be at a place with great fan support. Games at UTEP are almost always sold out, he said. USC's Galen Center was mostly empty for Cantu. "They love basketball [in El Paso], there's a lot of enthusiasm for the program. It's a great atmosphere I understand."
One thing that might be weird? Both UTEP and USC are playing in the same preseason tournament in the Bahamas. "If we meet, yeah, that will be different," Cantu said.
He said on Thursday he'll start recruiting for UTEP. While his main focus will be on the West Coast, Cantu said he'll also recruit nationally. And he's happy to reunite with another former USC assistant who is on Floyd's staff, Phil Johnson.
As for USC, Cantu said, "I think the future is bright. There is a lot of talent coming through the area in the next couple of years, a lot of great players basically down the street. It should be good."