USC basketball: Kevin O’Neill suspended for the rest of the Pac-10 tournament


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USC just announced that Trojans Coach Kevin O’Neill is suspended for the rest of the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament because of a verbal altercation he and his wife were involved in Thursday night at a hotel with a longtime Arizona booster.

This means that O’Neill will not be coaching the fourth-seeded Trojans as they face top-seeded Arizona in a semifinal game Friday night at Staples Center. Associate head coach Bob Cantu will coach the team Friday. If the Trojans win, Cantu will also coach them in the Pac-10 tournament final.


O’Neill was coach at Arizona for one season (2007-08) and is in his second season at USC.

Here’s the statement from USC Athletic Director Pat Haden:

‘I have talked to Coach Kevin O’Neill and expressed my disappointment in his involvement in an incident last night in which he and his wife engaged in an argument with a supporter of another school.

‘We have met with various parties who have knowledge of the incident. Based on the information we have gathered, I am immediately suspending Coach O’Neill for the balance of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament. We also have set forth additional discipline that will remain private.

‘Coach O’Neill was remorseful and apologetic and accepted responsibility for his actions. He understood that his actions were unacceptable and that they reflect poorly on him, his team and USC. We hold our coaches to very high standards, as they are role models to the student-athletes they lead. Clearly, Coach O’Neill used poor judgment and failed in this situation.

‘Coach O’Neill is a good man and an outstanding basketball coach. He made a bad decision in this instance and is now suffering the consequences.

‘Assistant coach Bob Cantu will coach the Trojans for the remainder of the Pac-10 Tournament.’ Here is the statement from O’Neill:

‘I want to apologize to my team, our university and our fans for my involvement last night in an incident with a fan.

‘I understand my behavior as the leader of our team was unacceptable. I used poor judgment and put myself, my team and USC in a bad light. I regret that I have let them down.

‘I respect and accept the disciplinary actions imposed on me by USC. It is something that I will have to live with. I look forward to learning from this, moving forward and coaching the Trojans well into the future.

‘I know that Coach Cantu and the rest of the staff will do a great job in my absence, and that my players will continue to give a great effort on the court.’

[Updated 4:55 p.m.: Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott just issued the following statement on the suspension of O’Neill.

‘It is an unfortunate circumstance, but we are in complete agreement with (USC) Athletics Director Pat Haden’s decision,’ Scott said.

‘It’s our highest obligation and responsibility to set a good example for our student-athletes as we prepare them for productive lives beyond college athletics. We commend USC for its actions.’ end update]

-- Baxter Holmes