This is probably too much honesty, but here you go: I decided weeks ago to like the next basketball coach at Southern California. No matter what, I was going to like the guy. After disliking Henry Bibby for being a jerk and seeming shady, and after loathing Rick Majerus for being a horrible human being away from the TV cameras, and after coming close to hating Tim Floyd for being as scummy as the bottom of a dormitory toilet, I was going to like the next guy. Whoever he was.
|Nobody likes Kevin O'Neill, which doesn't seem to bother the new USC coach. (Getty Images)|
Basically, USC could have hired anybody other than, well, let's pull out a ridiculous name. USC could have hired anybody but Kevin O'Neill, and I was going to like it, whether I liked it or not.
But I'll be damned. USC hired Kevin O'Neill.
Which is a relief, honestly. Having to fake it, having to embrace cadaver-like Jeff Van Gundy, was going to be hard. I was going to do it, but -- wow. Would have been hard.
Faking it with Kevin O'Neill? Acting like I like this hire? Can't do it. Kevin Spacey couldn't do it. Laurence Olivier couldn't do it, and he's deader than Jeff Van Gundy.
In a moment we'll get to some actually insightful stuff, but for now, let me state why I dislike O'Neill. It's not original stuff. You've probably heard this before, although you've not heard the way I'll say it:
Kevin O'Neill is a big, fat meanie.
Show me somebody who meets two criteria -- (1) knows Kevin O'Neill and (2) claims to like Kevin O'Neill -- and I'll show you a liar. Or an actor on the level of Kevin Spacey. Maybe even Laurence Olivier. It's possible that a dead man could like Kevin O'Neill, but it would have to be one stupid dead man. Like the stiff from Weekend at Bernie's. Maybe he likes Kevin O'Neill.
He'd be the first.
Everyone knows that everyone hates Kevin O'Neill, and I can promise you it doesn't hurt O'Neill's feelings. He conducts himself in a way that says, You will hate me, or my name isn't Kevin O'Neill. He wants your hate. He feeds off it. He insults players and staffers. He has the Buck Showalter Syndrome of thinking he invented the game. He's volatile in a way that would frighten even volatile people. His NBA coaching career died long ago, but stories of his temper tantrums -- in locker rooms, in hotel rooms -- live on. To know Kevin O'Neill is to hate him.
And still, USC hired him.
Which brings me to that insightful stuff I promised earlier:
Hiring Kevin O'Neill confirms just how much trouble the USC basketball program was in -- and still is in -- thanks to the Trojans' previous coach. Scummy Tim Floyd resigned amid an NCAA investigation into his scummy dealings with scummy O.J. Mayo and the scummy losers who were hanging around Mayo back when he was a high school senior.
Even with a brand-new facility and the plummeting stock of longtime Pac-10 bully Arizona (thanks in part to Kevin O'Neill!), the Trojans couldn't give this job away to a real candidate. Why? Because the Trojans must be in deep, deep doo-doo with the NCAA.
Whatever USC told its first two or three or 14 choices about the NCAA investigation, it was bad. So bad that it scared off all of them. All of them but O'Neill, who will just reinvent the game and have the Trojans winning 20 in no time.
By hiring O'Neill, USC also is dropping to its knees in remorse before the NCAA, which still is looking into the only sport on campus that matters to USC athletics director Mike Garrett, the USC football program. See, Kevin O'Neill is clean. He's not a cheater. Say what you want about Kevin O'Neill -- but don't say that only a stupid dead man could like him; that's piling on -- but you can't say he's dirty. You know what he is? He's Bob Knight Lite. Big jerk. But a big, clean jerk. Hiring O'Neill lets the NCAA know that your school is serious (finally) about having a clean basketball program.
Not that having a clean basketball program matters at USC. It doesn't. The basketball program at USC is something to be pitied, because it suffers from awful neglect. Hiring Bibby was neglectful. Trying to hire Majerus was neglectful. Tim Floyd? Awful. Mike Garrett simply didn't care. His baby is the football team. Think about it: USC basketball will go into the 2009-10 season with the guy who couldn't cut it as the interim coach at Pac-10 rival Arizona. That's some neglectful parenting right there -- like having a fat kid and feeding him Little Debbies all day long. It's so wrong, it's cruel.
Mike Garrett doesn't get it, but neglectful parents never do. After hiring O'Neill, Garrett took the time to get his explanatory statement right. He put out a news release with a comment, meaning he knew the question before he had to give the answer. And still he whiffed. Garrett said he picked O'Neill because, and I quote, "He stresses defense, and I've always believed defense wins championships."
The defending champion in college basketball is North Carolina. Guess where North Carolina was ranked last season in defense?
Really good high school recruits don't pick a school because they want to play defense. They pick a school because they want to score. They pick a school because they like the offense, and because they like the head coach.
Which means they'll have to find a new reason to pick Southern California.
Because nobody likes Kevin O'Neill.