O'Neill replaces Floyd as Trojans coach

Updated: June 21, 2009, 11:32 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Kevin O'Neill, whose departure from Arizona made headlines in 2008, returned to college basketball with the announcement that he has been hired as USC's men's basketball coach following the resignation of former coach Tim Floyd.

O'Neill told ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Saturday afternoon that he interviewed for the job Friday morning in Los Angeles and accepted the offer Friday night. O'Neill said he dealt with no one but USC athletic director Mike Garrett.

"I'm really excited," O'Neill said. "It's gotten a little crazy over there [USC]. I really think I'm a good fit at this time for the program."

O'Neill was flying home Saturday to his summer home in upstate New York and was scheduled to return to Los Angeles on Sunday morning in advance of the Monday news conference to introduce him as coach.

O'Neill has worked at both the college and pro levels, spending the 2009 season as an assistant coach and special assistant to the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies.

"We're thrilled to have Kevin O'Neill as our men's basketball coach," Garrett said in a release. "Kevin is the consummate coach. He knows his Xs and Os, he's an excellent recruiter and he is very in tune with the academic side of a player's collegiate experience. His 30 years of experience at the college and professional levels has prepared him well for this opportunity.

"I love his coaching philosophy and principles: he's a no-nonsense coach who is very detail-oriented and prepares his teams well. He stresses defense and I've always believed that defense wins championships."

[+] EnlargeKevin O'Neill
Chris Coduto/Icon SMIKevin O'Neill will return to the college sidelines as the head coach of the USC Trojans, the latest stop in his 30-year career.

O'Neill's last stint as a college basketball coach came during the 2007-08 season, when he was named as the interim coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took a leave of absence. O'Neill had been named as Olson's eventual replacement whenever the Hall of Fame coach retired.

O'Neill's team went 19-15 in Olson's absence and made the NCAA tournament. When Olson announced he was returning, he said O'Neill would no longer be a member of his coaching staff. O'Neill was reassigned to the athletic department until leaving the school to join the Grizzlies.

"I don't have any bad blood with Arizona," O'Neill said. "I have great respect for Lute Olson and [Arizona athletic director] Jim Livengood."

No decisions have been made regarding next year's staff, O'Neill said, but he praised the job Floyd did as coach.

"This isn't just any job," O'Neill said. "This is a job [where] you can compete for the national championship. I have been offered other jobs before, but I wanted to wait for the right one. USC is a great job."

O'Neill takes charge of a USC program that has won at least 20 games and made the NCAA tournament each of the past three seasons, both school records, at a university best known for its powerhouse football program, which also is being investigated by the NCAA.

Previously, O'Neill served as the head coach at Division I schools Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern, racking up a 171-180 record in 12 seasons. He also led the Toronto Raptors for one season.

Floyd resigned from USC on June 9 after four seasons with the Trojans following allegations that he gave $1,000 in cash to a man who helped steer former star player O.J. Mayo to the Trojans.

If the NCAA can prove that Floyd paid to have Mayo delivered to USC, that would be considered a major violation. The Trojans could be forced to forfeit victories, and they could face recruiting restrictions and lose scholarships.

Since the Trojans' season ended in March, starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett, along with Marcus Johnson, declared for Thursday's NBA draft, and the Trojans have lost eight recruits.

As for the NCAA investigation, O'Neill said, "This was not a factor in the decision. Mike Garrett fully informed me on everything. I had no hesitation in taking this job. It was a slam dunk to go."

O'Neill refused to give the terms of his contract.

ESPN.com's Andy Katz contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE