You have to give Kevin O'Neill credit. He knows this is going to be a tough situation but he isn't going show his cards if he is worried.
He is going to put the best spin on it as possible and shoot for the moon.
"It would be my expectation, when we hit the practice floor, we want nothing short of the NCAA Tournament," O'Neill said.
In just about every article or column I have read he seems undaunted with the challenges that lie ahead. O'Neill looks at the roster and sees a lot of good players...that's great but there aren't a whole lot of new ones coming in. He is unconcerned with the ongoing NCAA investigation, but that same investigation could cripple the program further when the NCAA hands down their findings. O'Neill claims he has mellowed...I am not buying any of it. We are who we are and very few people change their stripes, especially this late in their career. It is clear he is driven...and honest, he is not afraid to tell you what he thinks.
This quote caught my eye...
"Players don't always like the coach," O'Neill said. "Guess what, coaches don't always like all the players sometimes either."
When was the last time you heard a coach say something like that?
It is clear from the stories that we have read about his brief time in Tucson that he certainly did not get along with his players. But those were not his players and the old head coach was working behind the scenes to undermine O'Neill.
But that is in the past.
We have to deal with today and there is no looking back. Plaschke makes some interesting observations.
Facing new and increased scrutiny, the Trojans have to remain squeaky clean, and in a dozen college seasons spent retooling junkers, O'Neill is still without stain.
"We're going to deal with whatever comes out of this and be positive and move forward," O'Neill said.
Finally, facing the rebuilding of a program that has lost its four best players and seemingly all of its best recruits in the wake of the NCAA probe, the Trojans needed a tough guy who can hold things together.
I have said we are irrelevant in college hoops right now. It really doesn't matter if O'Neill was 4th choice or 100th choice. SC needed someone to come in and do some dirty work...the other coaches that SC went after didn't want any part of it, Placshke offers up his thoughts on that as well.
To all those Trojans fans who are complaining that he was Athletic Director Mike Garrett's fourth choice, that he's no Jamie Dixon or Jeff Van Gundy or Lon Kruger?
You really think any of those guys would agree to coach a team facing probably at least one season of meaninglessness?
You really think those guys would hook up with someone who is headed for jail?
Those kinds of reputations don't do ruins.
If you believe the reports that those coaches required an "out" clause so they could quit if the school were placed on probation, well, USC basketball has had enough quitting for now, and I don't blame Garrett if he refused to put that in a contract.
This is not a job that would interest a Coach K, this is a job for a Brand X, and O'Neill fits that well.
That pretty much goes along with what I said that SC couldn't land a top tier coach because SC is not a top tier job. I have some other opinions on that but they are unimportant now.
O'Neill doesn't think this a rebuilding job...I have news for him...it is. We only have one player coming in for 2009/10 O'Neill is going to have to build a lot credibility with the local programs and he is going to have to prove that he is a different coach than what we have all read about. He is going to have build credibility with the coaching staff as well. He needs them right now as they will help smooth the transition with the players that are still on the roster.
O'Neill is not going to shy away from the one-and-done players that litter every recruiting class...the very type of players that put us in this mess. That is fine, because O'Neill has a spotless NCAA record he will be able to weed out those one-and-done's that could bring something to the table and those that could spell trouble. Expectations are low so he won't feel the pressure that Tim Floyd apparently felt in bringing in OJ Mayo.
O'Neill certainly said a lot of the right things in yesterday's press conference but now he has to show us.
He has a lot of detractors out there but maybe he can use that to his advantage by coming in under the radar. I have read where many people have called him a great recruiter yet I cannot find any examples of the great players he recruited. I do think O'Neill gets a bad rap for his over all record. He has done some major rebuilding jobs in the college ranks and he has never stayed around long enough to taste the fruits of his labors. But I think that is a far cry from being a failure...some people are just better at coming and fixing things after they have been destroyed...not necessarily running them once they are fixed.
I am still unwilling to look at O'Neill's hire in the same light as the hiring of Pete Carroll. There may be some up front similarities but the circumstances could not be more different and those circumstances will chart a path for USC basketball that we will not like.
USC basketball needs someone to come in and roll their sleeves up and like it or not O'Neill is that guy. Sure, It would have been great to get a guy like Dixon or Kruger but I am not sure that under the circumstances they would have been a great fit. Kruger is too comfortable where he is given that he has turned down higher profile jobs than USC and Dixon, for as great as some think he is, has never had to build something like this. That may be a blessing in disguise. Plaschke's comments on the "out clause" do have a ring of truth to them.
So, now its just a waiting game. Waiting on recruits, waiting on the NCAA and waiting to see just how this hire works out.
Here are some links from everything out there ...