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January 14, 2013 at 1:20 PM

USC fires Kevin O’Neill

USC didn’t give Kevin O’Neill a chance for a midseason makeover and fired the Trojans coach Monday morning.

Longtime assistant Bob Cantu will serve as interim coach.

In 3 1/2 seasons O’Neill guided USC to a 48-65 record.

The Trojans were 16-14 his first year in 2009-10 despite self-imposed penalties following the O.J. Mayo fallout. The next season, O’Neill might have saved his job when he guided USC (19-15) to wins in five of the last six regular-season games and a NCAA tournament appearance.

Last season, USC suffered a slew of injuries and finished 6-26. It was the worst record in school history.

The Trojans struggled in non-conference games this season and had a 5-8 mark.

They beat Stanford 71-69 in the Pac-12 opener before losing to California. USC fell 66-60 at Colorado and pummeled Utah 76-59 on Saturday to improve its record to 7-10, 2-2 Pac-12.

But apparently, athletic director Pat Haden had seen enough.

“I would like to thank Kevin O’Neill for his four years of service to USC,” Haden said in a release on USC’s website. “He took over a program under difficult circumstances because of our NCAA issues and, despite that, he was able to do some good things.

“It was hard for me to evaluate him as a head coach until this year when he had enough players and veterans to compete. As the season progressed, it became evident to me that we needed new leadership in our men’s basketball program. Despite a nice road win in our last game, I felt it was best to make a change now, with most of the Pac-12 season still ahead of us, in order to re-energize our team.

The school also issued a statement from O’Neill, who said: “I enjoyed my four years at USC. It is a special place. I enjoyed the people I worked with, the players I coached and our fans. I thank USC for allowing me to guide their program. I couldn’t be more proud to work anywhere.”

O’Neill is the first Pac-12 coach fired since Utah fired Jim Boylen on March 12, 2011. His dismissal should put other struggling Pac-12 coaches on notice.

Comments | More in Pac-12 news | Topics: Kevin O'Neill, USC

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