Roundtable: What happens now at USC?
In the wake of Tim Floyd's resignation as USC coach, three of our college basketball experts -- Andy Katz, Dana O'Neil and Pat Forde -- give their rapid-fire reaction to the news and analyze what this might mean for the future of USC:
• Are you surprised by the news?
Pat Forde: I'm not shocked in a big-picture sense, but I can't say I saw it coming now. I can say that the program has imploded in rapid order and left Floyd in an untenable position. He was in trouble more than a year ago after ESPN aired Louis Johnson's detailed, damaging allegations that star recruit O.J. Mayo accepted a sizable amount of goods and services in his one season at USC. It got worse this spring with the YahooSports.com allegations from Johnson that Floyd gave at least $1,000 cash to a Mayo associate -- especially when the FBI reportedly entered the picture. Then players started fleeing the program as though the Galen Center was on fire. Add it up, and Floyd was a goner. Just a matter of when.
• Quite simply
how does this happen?
Dana O'Neil: Simple answer? Good old-fashioned hubris. For Floyd and anyone even remotely associated with the USC basketball team to think the NCAA wasn't paying attention to their every move in the wake of the Reggie Bush scandal and the hoops team's decision to bring in Mayo (basketball's version of Bush) is either plain foolish or plain arrogant. I'll take the latter. I'm not naive enough to think college basketball is clean and pure, but at least you have to give most of the rulebreakers some props -- they're clever rule manipulators or masters of plausible deniability. Yet Floyd reportedly was standing on a street corner in Los Angeles forking over some money to an agent's runner. Not since Hugh Grant made a certain late-night deal has such a stupid exchange been transacted in LA.
• What's the latest on the NCAA's investigation of USC?
Andy Katz: The NCAA has combined the football and basketball investigations to look at an overall lack of institutional control. Federal authorities also are looking into the case. The NCAA has yet to issue a notice of allegations for the Trojans to respond to and set up an official process that leads to a committee on infractions hearing like the ones in recent cases involving Indiana and Memphis. The football case deals with an allegation that former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush lived rent-free when he played for the Trojans. The issues for the football program are, of course, whether it occurred and, if so, whether any of the coaches knew.
The basketball investigation centers on the recruitment of current NBA guard O.J. Mayo, who played one season with the Trojans in 2007-08. The issue is whether Mayo handler Rodney Guillory received money from a sports agent and funneled it to Mayo. Allegations also have surfaced that Guillory used a charity's credit card for extra benefits to Mayo. Most recently, an allegation emerged that put basketball coach Tim Floyd at the center of the storm, claiming that he paid $1,000 in cash to Guillory in advance of a trip to Las Vegas before the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. The NCAA likely will wait to get all the information from federal authorities before advancing its case. It's easier for the NCAA to have information from the feds that is taken under oath than trying to get information itself. Multiple sources have told ESPN.com that Mayo never was interviewed by the NCAA and hasn't agreed to partake in a sit-down with the enforcement staff. If they do ever get to the notice of allegation stage, institutional control will be a major issue.
• Do you think Tim Floyd will ever coach again?
Forde: Only if Arizona needs another coach, given that the Wildcats incredibly talked to him when he already had a mushroom cloud over his head. Seriously, Floyd shouldn't need the money; he got a lot of it to bomb in the NBA. If he wants to come back after, say, a five-year show-cause penalty, it would be on a much smaller level. Floyd is a Mississippi native (hence the Jackson Clarion-Ledger's breaking the story), so maybe something in that area. If a program is suitably desperate.
• At this very moment, just how bad a job is "USC men's basketball coach"?
Katz: Southern California is still one of the premier jobs in the country. The Trojans have a beautiful new arena and the ability to re-emerge quickly. But it's unclear how much damage will be done to the program long term without knowing what the official NCAA allegations will be. USC did lose four players to the NBA draft -- DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Marcus Johnson -- then lost a slew of high-profile recruits in Renardo Sidney, Solomon Hill and Noel Johnson, with more likely to follow. USC's roster, as it stands now, still has a core group of defensive players who can hang on their own merit with North Carolina transfer Alex Stepheson, role players Marcus Simmons and Leonard Washington, and scoring wing Dwight Lewis. Stepheson and Lewis likely are hindered from leaving because of limited eligibility remaining. But the talent left behind -- at least as of this second -- would still form a competitive team in the rebuilding Pac-10. The Trojans lack a star, but so do most of the teams in the league.
• What are the names you're hearing as a replacement?
Katz: If USC athletic director Mike Garrett is making the decision -- and that's still to be determined -- he is expected to go with someone who has a clean NCAA record. Multiple sources have confirmed the school will struggle to fill this position with an established, elite coach who is in no mood to rebuild. That would take out coaches such as Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt. Even a coach a notch below, such as Saint Mary's Randy Bennett, doesn't have to take the USC job to rebuild when he has his own program cruising. Whereas a coach such as Long Beach State's Dan Monson, who has gone through NCAA overhauls at Minnesota and Long Beach State, might be a viable choice if the Trojans are looking for a cleanup man.
Multiple sources have told ESPN.com that USC might take a similar path to the one the Trojans followed when they were in the same predicament before Floyd was hired. Rick Majerus was the first choice, and he was out of coaching at the time. Floyd was next, another out-of-coaching candidate. Former Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus is expected to make an attempt at the job. Former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie also would make sense as a coach who isn't affiliated and doesn't have NCAA issues. If Garrett wants to make a similar splash nationally, a number of sources have speculated that former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight might be contacted. Garrett also might look at former Sonics and one-time college coach P.J. Carlesimo as a possibility. But the key for the Trojans will be to get someone who is willing to deal with the possibility of major sanctions the way Tom Crean did at Indiana when he came over from Marquette. USC will have a hard time holding on to 2010-12 recruiting classes with the unknown of the NCAA reaction still hovering over its head.
• With the football program also under investigation, is USC athletic director Mike Garrett in trouble?
Forde: If the NCAA produces a convincing case that encapsulates major violations in both football (Reggie Bush) and basketball (Mayo), Garrett is a goner. Not even a USC alum with his name on a Heisman Trophy can survive two scandals of that scope.
• Speaking of ADs, just how fortunate is Arizona's Jim Livengood feeling these days?
O'Neil: If Sean Miller is hankering for a raise, today would be the day to ask. His athletic director ought to be the most thankful in all of college sports. According to multiple reports, Arizona inexplicably offered Floyd its head-coaching job even while all this was brewing. That would have put the Wildcats, already in the midst of their own NCAA peek thanks to former coach Lute Olson, on the broiling front burner. By nothing other than dumb luck or divine providence, Arizona and Livengood instead ended up with Miller. And how's this for a kicker Floyd also was on Memphis' very short list after John Calipari resigned. Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson should be kneeling at his beloved Elvis' grave site and thanking the heavens his own NCAA mess didn't just get messier.
• Have you caught your breath since the Final Four?
O'Neil: Who won again? The chaos swirling around this sport has been so all-consuming, I've all but forgotten about freezing in Detroit (technically, I just thawed out). Two weeks ago, my mean game of family kickball was interrupted by the news that Billy Gillispie had filed a federal lawsuit against Kentucky. Before I could even digest that bit of information, word came down not 20 minutes later that Memphis was under NCAA investigation, lassoing Kentucky and John Calipari into the fray. Down the road a spell from Calipari's new Lexington address, a woman has been indicted on extortion charges against Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Renardo Sidney and John Riek are going to Mississippi State; Fairleigh Dickinson (Fairleigh Dickinson???) just fired its winningest coach -- in June. Robert Dozier reportedly went to the same SAT prep class as Derrick Rose, and now USC is spiraling down toward a self-imposed death penalty. Is Tyler Hansbrough 30 yet?
• Can you remember a crazier offseason?
Forde: Off the top of my head, no. When the FBI is mentioned in basketball stories at two schools -- USC and Louisville -- you know it's been a crazy spring. It would take some research to find something that can rival ongoing investigations at Memphis, UConn and USC and concerns about an NCAA ripple effect at Kentucky, plus a future Hall of Fame coach the victim of a potentially reputation-damaging alleged extortion plot. The usual June stuff of "who is in" and "who is out" of the draft is small potatoes this year.
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