I've said it before repeatedly on this blog that current head coach Kevin O'Neill has had a rather shaky history in regards to his relationship with his players. He's never been considered to be a guy who relates to his players particularly well, and during the latter stages of his tenure at Arizona, he ruffled some feathers the wrong way before being show the door. In the aftermath, one anonymous player called him "borderline insane" and a "madman."
Personally, I find the descriptions to be a bit over the top and exaggerated, but the point remains: O'Neill has had a rocky history with his players in the past. However, since coming to USC, there's been a lot of talk about a quieter, more patient and understanding coach. Historically, he's been a tough coach to play under, but recent pump-up pieces in multiple media outlets seemed to suggest that he was developing a softer side.
I have no idea whether that is accurate or not. I don't attend practice daily nor am I in the lockeroom during team meetings. Yet, recent events seem to indicate that O'Neill troubled past in relation to developing relationships with his players is carrying over to USC. In just a year-and-a-half on the job, he's watched three players transfer elsewhere, including two players (Jones and Davis Rozitis), whom he recruited.
That is a frightening trend.
More after the jump.
Because I'm in the business of self-promoting, here're two previous posts I wrote on Leonard Washington and Rozitis' decisions to transfer. Neither situation is particularly comforting.
Player #1: Leonard Washington (March 2010) LINK
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.
Unfortunately, things were just getting started.
Player #2: Davis Rozitis (May 2010) LINK
Over time, O'Neill has developed the reputation for being anything but a "player's coach." After all, he 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, including future pros Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger, before being dismissed by then-athletic director Jim Livengood. To top it off, one player, who spoke anonymously, went as far to label him "bipolar."
In turn, it should come as no surprise that many have cited his demeanor and overly aggressive personality as the primary reasons for his inability to relate to 19 and 20 year-old student-athletes. Does that mean both Rozitis and Washington left because of O'Neill? Likely Washington, but not necessarily Rozitis.
Even still, the team's current predicament is a little disheartening. When you have a coach with a track record like O'Neill's, it's not beneficial to be losing players to other programs so early in their collegiate careers.
It's hard to know exactly how the whole Bryce Jones thing went down, but let's put our heads together and use some common logic.
Kevin O'Neill has a history of being an angry, old cuss and not getting along with players. He's even been described as a madman, and in the midst of his second season with the Trojan hoops program, three players have left the program, while two were supposedly "his type of guys."
Something's wrong. While it's certainly a bit premature to start calling for O'Neill's head, it is still important to note that he should be open to all scrutiny at this point.
The leash is getting shorter and much quicker than many of us ever anticipated.