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USC Basketball: Longtime Trojans assistant Bob Cantu a candidate for Fresno State head coaching position

March 18, 2011 |  3:42 pm

Bc USC men's basketball associate head coach Bob Cantu, who has been at the school for a decade, has emerged as a candidate to become head coach at Fresno State, which announced Thursday that it had fired coach Steve Cleveland.

According to multiple people close to the situation, officials at Fresno State had been inquiring about Cantu even before Cleveland was let go. A key question is whether Fresno State is looking to hire an assistant to become its next head coach or if it wants to find a current head coach.

Cleveland was fired after six seasons, the last four of which the Bulldogs finished with losing records. He will still be at Fresno State, holding a different position within the school's athletic department.

Cantu, the head recruiter for the Trojans, has been at USC for 10 seasons and has coached at the collegiate level for 15 years. He has worked under four head coaches at USC -- five if you include Rick Majerus, who backed out of the job less than a week after accepting it in 2004.   

In May 2008, Cantu, who has helped recruit nine players who went to the NBA and has been a part of six NCAA tournament appearances with USC, was recognized by as one of the top 20 college basketball assistant coaches.

In a recent interview, Cantu said he wasn't sure how much longer he would be at USC, and that he aspired to one day become a head coach.

"You want to have goals in this profession and that’s definitely my goal," Cantu said. "When the right time comes and the right opportunity comes, I’d definitely like to look into it."

Cantu came to USC after a year and a half as an assistant coach at Sacramento State. Before that, he spent three seasons as an assistant at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, and before that he was a basketball administrative assistant at Cal Poly. And prior to that, he spent three seasons as jayvee coach and a varsity assistant coach at Mission Prep High in San Luis Obispo. 

Cantu recently coached USC against Arizona in the Pacific Life Pac-10 tournament semifinal when USC Coach Kevin O'Neill served a one-game suspension for an off-court altercation. That game was the first Cantu had coached since 1998. 


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-- Baxter Holmes 

Photo: Bob Cantu. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire