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USC Coach Kevin O’Neill on UCLA Center Josh Smith: Fat Boy Needs to Slim Down

USC basketball coach Kevin O’Neill, last seen double-fisting cocktails at the Pac-10 tournament, once said UCLA sophomore center Josh Smith had more upside than any other player in the conference. Now he’s not as positive about the Bruins big man.

“I like Josh, I think he’s a good player,” O’Neill said Thursday, when asked how he thinks Smith is progressing this season. “But I would encourage anybody that’s in Josh’s physical condition that, if you want to play at the next level, he’s got to lose weight and get himself in better shape to play.”

O’Neill emphasized that Smith needs to get in shape to play at the next level.

Wrong-minded UCLA fans will get upset with the USC coach for what he said, but that would be a poor reaction. I applaud O’Neill for opening his mouth.

Like O’Neill, I thought Smith had a lot of potential as a player. I still think he does. And in some senses, his 6’10” 300-plus pound frame is an asset in the post. However, his weight is such a problem he’s only averaged 18 minutes a game. How are you supposed to be a major impact player when you’re in the game less than half the time?

Hopefully Smith uses O’Neill’s criticism to improve himself as a player. It would be good for him and the team.

Report: Kevin O’Neill to Be Fired by USC

Life does not appear to be getting any easier for USC men’s basketball coach Kevin O’Neill in the wake of his drunken altercation Thursday night.  For those of you who have not heard, O’Neill and his wife, Roberta, reportedly got into it with a notable Arizona booster in a hotel and Roberta (and possibly Kevin) allegedly struck the man.  O’Neill was suspended for the remainder of the Pac-10 tournament (their run ended Friday), and USC athletic director Pat Haden acknowledged that “additional discipline” is a possibility.  Could that additional discipline come in the form of termination?

The March to Madness called our attention to a report from Point Guard U, the site that first reported the hotel confrontation, which states that O’Neill will be fired on Monday.  USC was bounced from the Pac-10 tournament by Arizona on Friday without O’Neill and their NCAA tournament hopes may have been squandered with the loss.

However, Haden has had little tolerance for nonsense since he was hired and he was not in charge when O’Neill was brought in as head coach in 2009.  With that in mind, it would not be stunning to hear that O’Neill will be fired.  LBS is currently working on confirming the accuracy of the report.

UPDATE: USC’s media relations has informed LBS that any firing of O’Neill would be news to them and that it would come out of nowhere. They also termed Point Guard U’s initial report as having 25% accuracy.

UPDATE II: O’Neill has been re-instated as the team’s head coach to guide them through the post-season which could include an NCAA tournament berth. Athletic Director Pat Haden says he still faces additional institutional discipline and a fine.

Kevin O’Neill Suspended for Pac-10 Tournament, Bob Cantu Taking Over

USC head basketball coach Kevin O’Neill has been suspended for the remainder of the Pac-10 tournament for his involvement in a fight with an Arizona booster Thursday (read about the incident). USC’s athletic department posted the news on its site along with comments from athletic director Pat Haden and O’Neill.

Some of Haden’s statement: “We have met with various parties who have knowledge of the incident. Based on the information we have gathered, I am immediately suspending Coach O’Neill for the balance of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament. We also have set forth additional discipline that will remain private.”

“Coach O’Neill was remorseful and apologetic and accepted responsibility for his actions. He understood that his actions were unacceptable and that they reflect poorly on him, his team and USC.”

The swift move supports the no-nonsense approach Haden promised to take when he accepted the position. It also indicates that O’Neill was guilty of the allegations. As for Cantu, he’s been with the program for 10 years and served under Henry Bibby, Tim Floyd, and now O’Neill. This will be his first time serving as a head coach at the collegiate level.

Kevin O’Neill’s Wife Reportedly Hit Arizona Fan While Drunk, USC Investigating [Update]

Both USC and Arizona were victorious in their Pac-10 quarterfinal games on Thursday at Staples Center. Playing in the afternoon session allowed the Trojans and Wildcats to have plenty of time off to enjoy the rest of their day. According to a report, USC coach Kevin O’Neill (pictured) and his wife did just that.

Arizona fan site Pointguardu.com reported late Thursday that O’Neill and his wife were drunkenly escorted away from their hotel after getting into verbal and physical altercations with Arizona fans. Taking it directly from their report:

O’Neill and his wife were in a hotel lobby and visibly intoxicated when they exchanged words with a group of Arizona fans. O’Neill reportedly threatened the fan that USC was going to “beat the hell out of Arizona.” Words were exchanged and our sources say that O’Neill’s wife struck one of the Arizona fans. O’Neill and his wife were escorted out of the hotel, and Arizona fans were left wondering what just happened.

The site insists their sources are extremely reliable, and the report has led to USC’s AD Pat Haden saying in a statement “We are looking into this and gathering facts. We will determine what appropriate action is necessary.” Arizona and USC will meet in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament on Friday at 6pm PT.

UPDATE: O’Neill has apologized for the incident “I used poor judgment at the team hotel last night and would like to apologize to my team, to my university and to the athletic department.”

UPDATE II: O’Neill has been suspended for the remainder of the Pac-10 tournament.