New USC coach talks about relationship with O.J. Mayo
Newly introduced USC basketball Coach Kevin O'Neill spoke on Monday about former Trojans star O.J. Mayo. The two spent last season together with the Memphis Grizzlies but didn't talk much about college hoops.
"We would bust each other up about 'SC and Arizona, 'We beat you there,' " he recalled. "The thing that O.J. was always very, very, very adamant about was that it was a great experience. He enjoyed being here, he enjoyed the people that were here, he enjoyed playing for Tim [Floyd]. I heard nothing but good things about USC from O.J."
Otherwise, O'Neill insisted that they only talked about Grizzlies basketball.
O'Neill didn't speak with Mayo about his new job, either. "You don't reach pro guys in the off-season," he quipped.
Asked how short-term players might fit into his program at USC, O'Neill said that it's a part of the deal. "I think you have to recruit those guys. They're great players. It's important that you recruit guys that can help you win. Those guys are part of the basketball culture."
O'Neill's experience with short-term stars is limited to Jerryd Bayless at Arizona. "He was a great player, a great contributor to the program, and a great guy to coach," he reflected before adding, "You also need to recruit some program players, too -- guys that are there for four years."
-- Adam Rose
Photo: Kevin O'Neill after a news conference introducing him as USC's new men's basketball coach. He worked for one year in the NBA with former Trojans star O.J. Mayo. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.