Westhead Among USC Candidates : College basketball: School gets permission to interview former Laker and Loyola coach. Duke's Amaker, North Carolina's Ford also on list.


USC has received permission to interview Paul Westhead, current George Mason and former Laker and Loyola Marymount basketball coach in what has become a nationwide search for the Trojans.

Tom O'Connor, athletic director at George Mason, said Wednesday that USC administrators contacted him two weeks ago about Westhead, who also coached the Denver Nuggets.

Quoting an unidentified source, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Wednesday that Mike Garrett, USC's athletic director, interviewed Duke assistant Tommy Amaker and North Carolina assistant Phil Ford recently.

The newspaper also reported Garrett had targeted three coaches and five assistants as possible replacements for interim Coach Charlie Parker, who took over this season when George Raveling resigned after he was seriously hurt in a car accident.

The other candidates named were Tulane's Perry Clark, George Washington's Mike Jarvis, Tulsa's Tubby Smith and assistants Jerry Dunn of Penn State, Robert McCullum of Florida and Steve Robinson of Kansas.

When contacted Wednesday night, Garrett had no comment.

Westhead, 55, is known for producing high-scoring fast-break teams. He revamped Loyola's program in the late 1980s with the help of Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers, whose controversial death five years ago led to Westhead's decision to leave Southern California. George Mason was 10-17 in Westhead's first season last year and is 7-18, 2-11 in the Colonial Athletic Assn. this season. Westhead could not be reached.

Administrators at Tulane, George Washington and Kansas said they have not been contacted by USC about their coaches. Florida's McCullum said he heard two months ago that he might be considered, but has not been contacted. North Carolina officials granted USC permission to speak with Ford last month.

Parker, Raveling's assistant before this season, said he believes he still is in contention although the Trojans have lost 12 in a row.

"I still haven't talked to Garrett (recently), but I wouldn't blame him if he was out talking to others," Parker said.

But Parker's chances might be diminishing as Garrett is exploring other avenues.

"One plan is to consider the top assistants at the top schools," said a USC administrator. "It's going to be difficult to get a head coach. But we want someone who can bring immediate credibility to the program."

One reason USC might have trouble luring an established coach is because the school still is paying off Raveling's contract and cannot offer a lucrative package.

Sources said USC also contacted Utah's Rick Majerus, who wanted to wait until the season ended before talking. Another coach informally approached was Mike Miller of L.A. City College. His junior college team is ranked third in the country.

Times staff writer Lonnie White contributed to this story.

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