Category archive: USC Trojans
• USC interim coach Bob Cantu met with AD Pat Haden last week and is getting, at the very least, the respect of being treated as a legitimate head-coaching candidate. The Trojans are 7-4 since he took over for the fired Kevin O'Neill. USC finishes the regular season at Washington and Washington State this weekend. And with more offensive fluidity, the Trojans are a potential spoiler in the Pac-12 tournament next week in Las Vegas.
The odds that Cantu will get the job are not good. He is just plowing ahead with this team and isn't politicking for the job. Haden interviewed UTEP head coach Tim Floyd -- Cantu's former boss -- as well as Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins. I'll be shocked if other top candidates don't emerge in what should be one of the best jobs in the Pac-12.
If Cantu can't get the USC job and doesn't stay on with the Trojans, he deserves a shot at another California school, if there is an opening.
• Miami coach Jim Larranaga felt very good about his team's effort last Saturday in a loss at Duke. And he certainly won't complain about the Hurricanes' 7-2 road record in the ACC.
"We played eight really good games and one poor game at Wake Forest,'' Larranaga said. "Our effort at Duke was good enough to win. But Ryan Kelly, well, there was no way we could have planned for that. We knew he was going to play, but we thought he would get 12-14 points, and we could survive that. But 36 points on 14 shots?''
Miami finishes with Georgia Tech on Wednesday and Clemson at home on Saturday, which will likely allow the Canes to win the ACC regular season outright.
"We scored 76 points and we missed two 3s that could have tied it [against Duke],'' Larranaga said. "I was not satisfied with our defense and some of that is my own responsibility.''
Reggie Johnson didn't score in the game, and Larranaga said that he may have been overhyped.
"He can play a lot better than he did,'' said Larranaga. "He didn't have a good game, and Ryan Kelly did.''
Larranaga thinks Shane Larkin should be named the ACC player of the year (and I agree) once Miami wins the ACC regular-season title.
"You should vote for the player from the team that wins the outright championship,'' said Larranaga. "We should have the player of the year for the first time in school history. We beat the No. 1 team for the first time in school history and set attendance records. But all the things we've done are a prelim to the NCAA tournament because all everybody remembers is March Madness.''
• I've never understood why teams do senior day/night festivities after the game. Indiana had to wait until it was midnight Tuesday after losing to Ohio State to honor its seniors. Why not take care of it before the game when the house is full and the attention is on the game/players and not on getting home to beat the traffic and weather?
• St. John's Steve Lavin and Notre Dame's Mike Brey both confirmed Wednesday there will be no further suspension for Cameron Biedscheid and Sir'Dominic Pointer beyond the one-game that they must sit per NCAA rules for being ejected for fighting. Losing Pointer is more of a hit for the Red Storm, which host Marquette on Saturday. The Irish play at Louisville in a game that would be a reach for them to win even with Biedscheid.
• Boise State's four-point loss at UNLV should be a precursor to what the Broncos can do next week in Las Vegas on the same floor. Playing late in the season at the site of the conference tournament should help them in the MWC tournament.
• John Thompson III (Georgetown), Buzz Williams (Marquette) and Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) are all Big East coach-of-the-year candidates, but Providence's Ed Cooley is making a late push. The Friars play at UConn on Saturday and are looking for win No. 10 in the Big East.
• Memphis is once again undefeated in C-USA after a two-point win at UTEP on Tuesday. It was yet another road win for the Tigers, whose 15-0 league record should be applauded, not scorned, due to the perceived lower-level of competition.
• Ole Miss still has life in the NCAA tournament chase after beating Alabama by four at home Tuesday. Now the onus is on the Rebels to win at LSU on Saturday and give the committee pause when it meets next week in Indianapolis.
• Ohio State's Thad Matta has had to do one of his best coaching jobs. The Buckeyes' win at Indiana should go down as one of the most impressive in conference play this season. Everything pointed to Indiana cruising to the Big Ten regular-season title by closing out the home schedule in the final week. The Hoosiers are still the top seed and cut down the nets late Tuesday night. But Ohio State was in control in the second half and cannot be dismissed at the Big Ten tournament in Chicago next week.
Texas Tech is being led by an interim coach in Chris Walker, but the Red Raiders job doesn't come close to commanding the interest the USC position does.
USC athletic director Pat Haden has two months until the end of the season, which gives him a head start on other ADs looking to make coaching changes, to find the right coach at one of Division I's hidden gems.
After canvassing a few coaches with a good sense of the job late Monday night, there were a number of reasons that USC is looked at as a job that will draw plenty of interest.
1. Location: The warmth of California, the fertile recruiting ground and the "It" factor of coaching in Los Angeles all make it worth serious interest.
2. Brand name: USC has a national name. Of course, it is for football, but the Trojans brand carries weight nationally. For months, USC can be found in the headlines, with its football program seemingly always in the news.
3. Football covers for hoops: A basketball coach doesn't have to feel the pressure of being in charge of the school's most important sport. This is similar to Oklahoma, Texas, Notre Dame and countless other jobs at football-dominated schools.
4. Facilities: USC used to have one of the worst playing situations on the West Coast in the antiquated L.A. Sports Arena. But the Trojans have one of the top on-campus facilities in the Galen Center. The practice facility is in the same building, which makes everything nice and convenient.
5. The Pac-12: The league lacks a dominant, intimidating team. Arizona should be the standard going forward, with UCLA and Oregon likely to have staying power for the foreseeable future. There is room to move up in the Pac-12.
So what should USC do through back-room channels to gauge interest?
The first natural call is to make a run at Pitt's Jamie Dixon, who is from Southern California. But it's hard to see Dixon leaving Pitt, where he has raised his family and has a great relationship with the administration. His family is from Southern California and his wife from Hawaii, but his close friend is Ben Howland at rival UCLA. I would be surprised if Dixon left for USC with the Panthers making a move to the ACC next season.
USC might make a run at Gonzaga's Mark Few, but once again Few has a better situation at Gonzaga. He has had many opportunities to leave and has decided to stay. I don't see it. There's no reason USC shouldn't try to see whether there is interest from VCU's Shaka Smart, even though he turned down Illinois to stay with the Rams.
Steve Lavin was at UCLA. He's at St. John's now. Would Lavin play at USC? Of course, but would he leave the Red Storm with the project not done yet? Not sure USC makes the play or whether he would bolt yet.
I don't see USC hiring an assistant. But what could play well is if Haden goes for a coach who wants to leave before he gets fired and wouldn't mind a change of venue and a fresh four-to-five-year contract. This is the Herb Sendek and/or Oliver Purnell-type play.
That's why names to file away for later could include Washington's Lorenzo Romar, Texas' Rick Barnes and Villanova's Jay Wright. I know there will be detractors dismissing all of these candidates. But you can guarantee this job will draw plenty of interest, at the very least to play their current school against USC and work for a raise.
Haden could look to an NBA coach, of course, as well.
USC is an intriguing position. The options are endless for a position that is sure to be coveted and/or played over the next two months in public and in private.