It would be more than fair to say that Kevin O'Neill has never been known as a "player's coach." After all, O'Neill has had relatively short stays at nearly every college program he's been at, and during his last stint before ending up at USC, Arizona, O'Neill alienated just about everyone involved with the program before his departure, notably future pros Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger. One such former player, who spoke anonymously, once said:
"He's a great guy off the court, but he's bipolar or something. On the court, he's a madman."
Suffice to say, O'Neill has always been a little nutty. His relationships with players and university administrations have always been a little shaky. He's certainly a bit brash, and more than rough around the edges. It's his coaching demeanor and aggressive personality that have always seemed to get him in trouble.
So with that being said, the recent rumors surrounding the possibility of current Trojan forward Leonard Washington transferring away from USC make perfect sense. According to Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com, Washington is leaving 'SC because he didn't "mesh well" with O'Neill. And based on O'Neill's past relationships with players, this shouldn't come as a big surprise.
As per Pedro Moura of ESPNLosAngeles.com, a spat between Washington and O'Neill took place on March 7, nearly a month after the Louisiana native reportedly cussed out the coach during the UCLA game played at Galen Center on Valentine's Day. Moura also added that the two had a meeting on March 12, yet USC's SID has not confirmed whether a decision has been made on Washington's future.
Nonetheless, this latest incident is a disturbing sign regarding the future of O'Neill's tenure at USC. I'm not sure any Trojan fan, myself included, was ever 100% sold on K.O. turning this program around or even achieving the same success that Tim Floyd enjoyed during his four years at the helm. So the idea that he's already having issues relating to players is not an encouraging event. By most accounts, Washington is a hard-nosed, gritty player who plays hard on both ends on the floor and has not had issues with coaches in the past. Suddenly, he chews out the coach? Something doesn't make sense. I'm hesitant to start pointing fingers when the whole story hasn't come out yet, but based on O'Neill's past history, it's hard not to take a long hard look at him.