So, we all read Pat Haden's comments supporting Kevin O'Neill "150 per-cent".
Some see those comments as an unwavering support for the coach...others see it as he really had no choice but to say that. The former is an obvious choice,but if Haden chose the latter he would have a Mike Hamilton/Bruce Pearl situation on his hands...and as we all saw that not only did that not end well, it was mess before before that ending took place.
At the moment there is no right answer in Haden's comments here. Nobody knows for sure what exactly Haden is thinking.
But based on Haden's comments about "winning the right way" or his passion for not embarrassing the institution, do his comments above about O'Neill mesh with his comments and actions over the past few months?
Pat Haden has openly supported Lane Kiffin up to this point with regards to the Tennessee situation and Kiffin's conduct so far while being at USC. Haden, as far as we know, isn't going to punish Kiffin for acts allegedly done (no matter what the severity) at another institution...at least not yet because that the final chapter has yet to be written there.
In Haden's own words Kiffin has been a model citizen while he has been at USC...
"However, I will say this: Since his return to USC last year as our head football coach, Lane has been vigilant in making sure he and the football program follow the NCAA’s rules and compete the right way. Lane has my support as our head football coach."
Those comments are as supportive towards Kiffin as Haden's comments regarding O'Neill but Kiffin hasn't been in the news because of anything he has done at USC.
Well, you know the story.
O'Neill's actions during the Pac-10 tournament clash with Pat Haden's mantra of not embarrassing the university. I won't comment on O'Neill's on the court record or some of the rumored on court antics. Reasonable people can agree that it would probably be best if O'Neill had at least another year at USC to give him a fair chance to turn things around as the basketball program comes out from under the sanctions.
But Haden can't be happy with O'Neill's "work hard, play hard" comments either. While there is nothing really wrong with those comments for you and me I would bet that Pat Haden and Max Nikias weren't thrilled about those comments as they show to some people a cavalier attitude that the school wants no part of during this time under the public and NCAA's watchful eyes.
Then there is O'Neill's "rumored" flirtation with the open coaching job at Oklahoma....
Just because that story has died down doesn't mean that the story is not true. You can bet Haden is looking into that through back channels if hasn't asked O'Neill about it directly. O'Neill does have a history with the AD at Oklahoma so it is entirely possible that an overture was made.
I think it is pretty clear that O'Neill's actions and comments contradict the way Pat Haden wants his people to act and represent the university. It would not surprise me if Haden is looking to move on O'Neill if he could find the right man for the job. I have no corroborated info on this but there are some rumblings out there.
Pat Haden is in a bit of a tough spot here.
Stay true to his vision by keeping with a zero tolerance for embarrassing acts or swallow it for now and bide his time until he can find a suitable replacement.
I think he goes with the latter scenario because unless he finds a slam dunk, home run hire it wouldn't prudent to let O'Neill go and cause further unrest within the hoops program. He may not like and will hold his nose doing it but sometimes you have to bite the bullet.
That's the problem of backing yourself into a corner because of appeasement.