LOS ANGELES — Kevin O’Neill returned to the college ranks Saturday when he was announced as Southern California’s basketball coach, taking over from Tim Floyd.
The school announced O’Neill’s hiring in an e-mail. Floyd suddenly resigned June 9 amid allegations that he paid to have O.J. Mayo delivered to the Trojans. He said he was quitting after four seasons because he no longer had enthusiasm for his job.
O’Neill, who was coach at Tennessee from 1994-97, is scheduled to be introduced Monday at a campus news conference.
UT will play at Southern Cal this coming season with a date not officially set at present.
“We’re thrilled to have Kevin O’Neill as our men’s basketball coach,” athletic director Mike Garrett said in a statement. “I love his coaching philosophy and principles: he’s a no-nonsense coach who is very detail-oriented and prepares his teams well. He stresses defense and I’ve always believed that defense wins championships.”
O’Neill’s NBA tenure seemingly appealed to Garrett as well.
“His 30 years of experience at the college and professional levels has prepared him well for this opportunity,” Garrett said.
The 52-year-old defense-oriented coach was an assistant with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies this past season. Mayo plays for the Grizzlies. O’Neill led the Toronto Raptors to a 33-49 record in 2004.
O’Neill also had stints with the New York Knicks, Detroit and Indiana.
He returns to the Pac-10 after serving as interim coach at Arizona in 2008 when Lute Olson took a leave of absence.
During his tenure in Tucson, O’Neill led the Wildcats to a 19-15 record and the school’s 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the nation’s longest active streak.
He was designated Olson’s permanent successor, but when the Hall of Famer returned that spring he announced O’Neill would no longer be part of the program.
O’Neill was 36-47 at UT and is 171-180 in 12 seasons as a college coach with other stops at Marquette and Northwestern.
O’Neill takes charge of a USC program that won at least 20 games and made the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons, both school records, at a university best known for its powerhouse football program, which is also being investigated by the NCAA.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity to coach at such a great institution as USC, with its tremendous athletic and academic tradition,” he said in the statement. “I appreciate Mike Garrett’s confidence in me. I will work my hardest to coach us to a championship level every single day. I can’t wait to get started.”
But all is not well with the Trojans as O’Neill moves into a program under investigation by the NCAA for alleged improprieties involving Mayo, who played one season at USC before leaving for the NBA.
Floyd has never addressed the allegations involving Mayo.
If the NCAA can prove Floyd paid to have Mayo delivered to USC, that would be considered a major violation. The Trojans could be forced to forfeit victories, and they could face recruiting restrictions and lose scholarships.
Since the Trojans’ season ended in March, starters DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett, along with Marcus Johnson, declared for Thursday’s NBA draft, and the Trojans have lost eight recruits.