Assistant to take over for season

Updated: December 8, 2004, 12:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- Henry Bibby was fired as Southern California's basketball coach Monday, just four games into his ninth season.

The Trojans, beset by some player dissension, are 2-2.

Athletic director Mike Garrett said he realized the timing was unusual but cited the Trojans' losing record in recent seasons.

"We haven't won in two years. I thought, 'Let's make the move to fire him.' It was just a gut feeling. I thought, 'Let's make the decision now," Garrett said.

Bibby had five winning seasons and three NCAA appearances at USC before being fired.

Assistant Jim Saia was appointed interim coach for the rest of the season.

"It's a blur. It's all been kind of a shock to me," Saia said. "My main job is the players, to keep calm in the storm."

Garrett, asked about possible candidates for the job, said, "Rick Majerus is a name we're looking at."

Majerus is the longtime Utah coach who resigned midway through last season because of health concerns.

According to ESPN.com's Andy Katz, other candidates for the permanent job -- in addition to Saia and Majerus -- are expected to include (but not be limited to) Pepperdine coach Paul Westphal (a USC grad), Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett and Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon.

Bibby's contract ran through the end of the 2005-06 season. According to Katz, Garrett told Bibby of his firing at 1 p.m. ET, saying the school was going to go in another direction. Bibby was apparently surprised by the move and didn't see it coming. Sources also said that Bibby would be paid the remainder of his contract.

Bibby had an overall record of 131-111. His 1997, 2001 and 2002 teams made it to the NCAA Tournament, including a final eight appearance in 2001.

Bibby is a former NBA player and the father of Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby.

The firing caught the players by surprise.

"It's a big shock. But it's the way things work," Derrick Craven said. "He demanded perfection, and perfection is hard to come by. He's hard. But we knew that coming in."

Gregg Guenther, who also played tight end for the Trojans before deciding to concentrate on basketball, said of Bibby's approach: "I just think he got a little too intense. But what coach doesn't?"

Saia saw Bibby in a different light.

"The perception of coach Bibby is wrong. He's really a wonderful human being. He's always mentoring," Saia said.

Bibby's future was in question after last season, when the Trojans won just 13 games, though he said before the season that he felt no added pressure.

"For what reason should I feel a sense of urgency?" he asked.

USC had four starters back from last season, along with several top reserves. The Trojans won their opener against UC Irvine before losing to then-No. 11 North Carolina and La Salle. They beat BYU 87-82 on Saturday night.

Highly regarded Rodrick Stewart, who came to USC last season from Seattle with his identical twin, Lodrick, quit the team in November. His brother threatened to quit but changed his mind.

For Saia, 40, this is his shot at a head coaching job after failing to land one off of Steve Lavin's staff at UCLA. Saia unsuccessfully tried to get the recently-open UTEP and Fresno State jobs. He was out of college basketball last season after Lavin was fired after the 2002-03 season, spending the year doing private coaching clinics.

USC hosts Fresno State on Wednesday.

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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