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USC basketball: Former assistant Arnold says 'We knew it was a one-year deal' [updated]

March 9, 2010 |  8:58 pm

Gib Arnold and Phil Johnson, who Sunday were notified that they would not be retained as assistant coaches for USC's basketball team, each said Tuesday they knew based on the situation that their five-year assistant coaching careers with the Trojans was likely to end after this season.

The situation, they said, was that when current Coach Kevin O'Neill was hired last June to replace Tim Floyd, who left amid allegations of recruiting violations, the program was in turmoil: Three players on the 2008-09 team had gone pro early and five recruits had recently de-committed. 

And because O'Neill was hired from an assistant coaching/consulting position with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies and wasn't familiar with the current players, they said they knew they'd likely be kept on staff to help with O'Neill's transition. 

"It was very fair of Coach O'Neill to keep us on, but, in the same breath, we knew it was a one-year deal," Arnold said. 

Said Johnson: "My feeling was that it would be for this year and for this year only from day one, and I'm fine with that."
O'Neill echoed that remark in a statement released Tuesday, saying his decision to release Arnold and Johnson had "nothing to do with their ability or performance, or with any issues related to the current status of the Trojan program. It simply has to do with the vision I have for how I want to structure this program. I want to move in a different direction." 

In comments released by the university, both coaches expressed gratitude toward O'Neill and the USC program. Arnold also said his release comes at an opportune time because he is now allowed to explore other coaching options, such as the head coaching position at Hawaii, where he is considered a top candidate. 

The Hawaii job came open this week when the university announced Monday that Bob Nash had been fired from his position. Arnold has local ties; he attended Punahou School in Honolulu and his father Frank is a former head coach at the university. 

"It would be a dream job for me," Arnold said. "How many jobs can you get where you say you're going home?"

Johnson said he has been in touch with several coaches about prospective positions and will be coaching "next fall," though he declined to comment on where that would be.

[Updated: 9:07 p.m.: This post has been updated to include comments from former USC assistant coach Phil Johnson.]

-- Baxter Holmes