Deciphering Kevin O'Neill "hot seat" rumors

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10: Head coach Kevin O'Neill of the USC Trojans reacts in the first half while taking on the California Golden Bears in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

I don't read PointGuardU.com often, so I'm relatively unfamiliar with their pedigree in University of Arizona circles. As a result, I'm hesitant to declare their recent report regarding Kevin O'Neill accurate or completely fabricated, just based on a lack of familiarity.

For those unaware, the Wildcats basketball website reported last night that USC will fire O'Neill on Monday, days after he engaged in a verbal altercation with a UA booster and was suspended for the remainder of the Pac-10 tournament following the incident.

"Kevin O'Neill will be FIRED Monday for Drunken Altercation with Arizona Fans & Booster," the headline read.

As of right now, PointGuardU remains the only site that has reported this. A relatively popular sports blog Larry Brown Sports, however, did follow up the initial report by contacting USC's media relations office, which refuted the report:

UPDATE: USC's media relations has informed LBS that any firing of O'Neill would be news to them and that it would come out of nowhere. They also termed Point Guard U's initial report as having 25% accuracy.

I have heard likewise from others, and right now, the idea that O'Neill will be canned on Monday would still come as a surprise to many despite the fact that Haden alluded to the possibility of "additional discipline" in his statement following the suspension.

In short, this isn't something, where the athletic department has A.) formed a consensus and B.) action is imminent. I'm highly skeptical in regards to whether USC has decided to fire O'Neill.

USC's Annenberg T.V. News contacted O'Neill in the wake of the initial report, yet the second-year Trojans coach, unsurprisingly, declined to comment.

"At this point, I don't want to comment," he told ATVN.

We can get to opinions later, but at the present time, firing O'Neill, at least on the surface, seems suicidal. For starters, firing a coach because of a verbal altercation doesn't seem at all reasonable. Granted, Haden might wish to use this opportunity to insert his own guy, but I'm not sure now is an appropriate time to do so.

Let's try some math. USC essentially has seven players, and three are graduating. If O'Neill leaves, Nikola Vucevic might follow suit. Now, that leaves just three players from the 2011 rotation on the roster: Jio Fontan, Garrett Jackson and Maurice Jones. There are some recruits coming in, namely Byron Wesley, but with the departure of a coach, there's always a possibility that another Tim Floyd situation emerges, where they get out of their letters of intent.

Based on the information available, it would seem that firing O'Neill is premature. Hopefully, for the betterment of the program, we're just dealing with some message board-like rumors.

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