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USC Fires Coach Kevin O’Neill

After a disappointing 7-10 start to the season, USC fired basketball coach Kevin O’Neill on Monday as they hope to turn things around in time for a shot at a postseason tournament berth.

“They informed me they were going in a different direction,” O’Neill told ESPN.com by phone. “I thanked them for the opportunity. I have nothing but great things to say about the university. It’s a great place.”

O’Neill spent three-plus seasons with the team and although he enjoyed some successful moments, his tenure was marred by player injuries, program sanctions and failed expectations. The Trojans went 6-26 a year ago and only won one game in the Pac-12 Conference.

“It’s disappointing any time you don’t win enough,” O’Neill said Monday. “That’s what it comes down to in this business, winning enough. I’m disappointed I couldn’t do a better job for the players.”

USC has promoted Bob Cantu, who has spent the past 12 years as an associate coach on the staff, to the head coaching position on an interim basis, but for the remainder of at least this season. Since 2001, Cantu has served under four head coaches, including Tim Floyd and the late Rick Majerus, learning from some of the best in the business.

“I’ve just been really fortunate,” Cantu told ESPN.com. “It just kind of worked out at this point. I’ve been real fortunate. I had opportunities and never had a chance to be an interim coach at this level. This never would have happened if Kevin didn’t promote me to associate head coach,” Cantu added. “I’m grateful to him.”

So, the question now becomes can USC salvage its 2012-2013 season? Although Cantu may bring a different energy to the team that may spark them for now, the answer is likely no. The Pac-12 is not the strongest conference in the NCAA, but there are several tough teams that the Trojans will have to contend with and 7-10 is way too deep of a hole to climb out of. It’s not likely that many of you were on USC’s train this season, but if you were, this is their last stop as far as this season is concerned.

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