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USC Basketball: USC investigating 'incident' involving Trojans Coach Kevin O'Neill [Updated]

March 11, 2011 | 10:10 am

USC officials are looking into reports that USC Coach Kevin O'Neill, his wife and a fan from an opposing team a were involved in an "incident" late Thursday night. 

"We have received some information tonight about an incident involving coach Kevin O'Neill, his wife and a fan from another school that occurred following our men's basketball game today," USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said in a statement released on the school's website Thursday night. Earlier in the day,  USC posted a  70-56 win over California in a Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinal.  

"We are looking into this and gathering facts. We will determine what appropriate action is necessary."

O'Neill is a second-year coach at USC after previously serving as an interim coach at Arizona. The Trojans are scheduled to face the No. 16 Wildcats in a semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday.

[Update 9:40 a.m.: According to multiple people close to the team, at some time between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Thursday night in the lobby of the JW Marriott hotel at L.A. Live, O'Neill and a longtime Arizona booster, who knew O'Neill from when O'Neill was the team's interim coach in 2007-08 and when he was an assistant coach there in the late 1980s, engaged in a verbal altercation.

Hotel security stepped in and O'Neill's wife, Roberta, engaged in a verbal altercation with the security guard. The two were asked to leave the hotel and they did, heading back to their downtown Los Angeles penthouse.

There is, of course, plenty of bad blood between O'Neill and Arizona. He became the team's interim coach in 2007-08 for longtime Arizona coach Lute Olson, who stepped down because of "personal reasons," and the school publicly designated O'Neill to be the Wildcats' head coach in-waiting. But following a 19-15 season and the school's 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, Olson returned and announced that O'Neill would no longer be part of the team. Then Olson permanently retired six months later.]

[Update 10:57 a.m.: Contrary to some reports that indicate O'Neill engaged in an altercation with multiple fans, people close to the situation indicate that it was one person, a longtime Arizona booster and close friend of Olson, and that the alternation was never physical. Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne just tweeted that the "U of Arizona is aware of the situation from last night and we know that the conference and USC is looking into the incident."]

[Update 11:21 a.m.: When reached by phone by The Times, O'Neill apologized for the incident. 

"I used poor judgment at the team hotel last night and would like to apologize to my team, to my university and to the athletic department. I'm looking forward to our team having another great effort tonight as we try to win the Pac-10 championship."

O'Neill said he did not expect Thursday night's events to be a distraction to the team. He also confirmed that the incident involved one person and not multiple, as has been reported elsewhere. O'Neill said USC is expected to issue a statement later Friday regarding this situation.]

We'll have more later on this at latimes.com/sports.

-- Baxter Holmes

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