USC Week’s Burning Question: How To Build A Basketball Winner?Posted by AMurawa on July 6th, 2012
Last week we invited Pachoops’ Adam Butler to chime in with his thoughts on our Burning Question. He did such a fine job, we’ve asked him back to reprise his appearance during Arizona week with a cameo during USC week. As for this week’s question, here goes:
In the big picture of the USC athletic program, it is no secret that the football program is the favorite son while the basketball program has historically been an afterthought. But when the Galen Center was opened in 2006, there was talk of a newfound commitment to making USC basketball respectable. Between the scandal surrounding the Tim Floyd/O.J. Mayo era and last year’s awful season, that momentum has stalled out. What do athletic director Pat Haden and the USC athletic department need to do to turn around the culture of USC basketball?
Andrew Murawa: When you think of the University of Southern California, sure, you think of those red helmets and those classic jerseys, you think of Reggie Bush and Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson, you think of the Los Angeles Coliseum and Traveler and that damn song the band plays over and over and over. And, you think of the song girls and those sweaters. Really, it’s all about image and glamour and style. And yet, when you think of USC basketball (if, that is, you ever think of USC basketball) you think of drudgery. You think of games played in the 50s (at best). You think of defense-first and a slow-it-down and ugly-it-up approach to what should be a beautiful game. In Los Angeles, winning will always garner some sort of support. But one way to fast-track your way to that support is to pretty things up. Make USC basketball the equivalent of those song girls: glamour and style, first and foremost. Recruit elite-level athletes, make the transition game a priority and earn a reputation for playing an appealing style of basketball. Couple that with recruiting visits to sunny Southern California and there is no reason that USC can’t compete with any program in the conference for any recruit. Now, is Kevin O’Neill the right man to change the culture of the program? While he can certainly coach the game, style and glamour are not words that immediately come to mind to describe him, and if he can’t get the Trojans back into the NCAA Tournament this season, March would be a good time to begin remaking the USC basketball program.
Adam Butler: It’s simple: win. That’s the M.O. in Los Angeles if you want attention and it was starting to work for Tim Floyd but maybe he got a little caught up in it all. OK, so just winning isn’t always that easy but I think Kevin O’Neill could be just the right guy to make USC Basketball, if nothing else, relevant. He has enough ego to not care whether or not he’s the golden child or the whipping boy and probably happily plays second fiddle to Lane Kiffin’s program while playing smack dab in the middle of one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. The knock has always been that O’Neill gets in his own way and ultimately I think there is a ceiling to what he can pull off. Haden could probably do better but O’Neill is the right guy to swallow these sanctioned years and he’s earned himself some time beyond that. This season will be telling as to how much more time KO gets inside the Galen Center.
Connor Pelton: In short, win. Look at places like Florida, Wisconsin, and Texas. Each is a football program first, but the basketball teams are nationally recognized because of winning traditions and perennial NCAA Tournament appearances. With that said, there’s a certain point wherein you need to stop the bleeding and save the program from mediocrity before you lose a chunk of your solid fanbase forever. With every team at every level, there is always a group of core fans that attends every home game and donates big money. But when they stop seeing a return on their investment, and their team is winning six games a year, the money stops coming in, the seats stop filling up, and eventually, your sport is stuck in that “afterthought” phase for years to come. However, with that said, I do think USC and Kevin O’Neill are on the right track. It’s tough to say that after last season, of course, but they have made the Big Dance in four out of their last six seasons. Hopefully they can ride the Jio Fontan/Maurice Jones train to a successful season, get another star recruit like O.J. Mayo (legally, of course) and start filling up the Galen Center again.