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USC Basketball: Kevin O'Neill talks altercation suspension, once again

March 15, 2011 |  1:29 pm

Oneill USC Coach Kevin O'Neill is going to face questions about his recent altercation and suspension in the Pac-10 tournament in every interview for maybe the next three weeks. 

In case you missed it, O'Neill served a one-game suspension during the Pac-10 tournament after he was involved in an altercation with an Arizona booster Thursday night in a hotel lobby. O'Neill missed USC's Pac-10 tournament semifinal game against Arizona, which the Trojans lost, 67-62

It was certainly a topic during Tuesday's media day session in Dayton, Ohio, where the Trojans (19-14) will face Virginia Commonwealth University (23-11) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Wednesday night.

"Let's get it out of the way right off," O'Neill began in his address to reporters.

"I want to apologize once again for getting suspended during the Pac-10 tournament. [Athletic Director] Pat Haden and our administration did absolutely the right thing at the right time. I'm held to a high standard, the highest standard as the leader of our team. I didn't live up to that."

O'Neill was also asked if he feared losing his job at any point this past weekend. 

"I think anytime somebody has an incident like that, or if you lose too much, I think coaches are always fearful of those things. I'm fortunate. I have guys that represent our university well. They understand what we have to live up to, what standard we have to live up to. But they're fair guys. Two are sitting here, [senior associate athletic directors] Steve Lopes and J.K. McKay, two of our senior administrators.

"I understand that I let them down and let our university down. If that would have been the consequence, I would have had to deal with it, because those are my actions.

"I certainly didn't want to get fired. Nobody wants to get fired, obviously. And the bottom line is they've supported me and my family tremendously through this. And I appreciate it. I thank them. Just like our president, Max Nikias. We have a Trojan family. Guys make mistakes. I made a big mistake, and they've been very understanding, very worthwhile in their support."

VCU's players and coaches were asked about it, and their answers were pretty low-key.

"I read about it," said senior guard Joey Rodriguez. "But I saw they came out the next day and played pretty well against Arizona. So I don't think it's really going to affect them. They're a talented group. I'm sure they're going to rally around their coach and it's going to be a tough game."

Said junior guard Bradford Burgess: "I wasn't aware of it. I didn't know anything about that."

Said VCU Coach Shaka Smart: "I was aware that the coach was suspended. I have no idea what happened, nor do I really care. I know that Coach O'Neill's going to coach the game tomorrow night. I have the utmost respect for him and his coaching staff and their program, so [I'm] looking forward to playing against them. But, again, anytime you're talking about drama or things surrounding the game, I really don't dwell on it."

For the record, O'Neill was reinstated Sunday even while rumors swirled that he would be fired. 


Kevin O'Neill reinstated as Trojans' men's basketball coach

Trojans compare VCU to Washington; Rams compare USC to Old Dominion, Drexel ... UCLA?

-- Baxter Holmes in Dayton, Ohio

Photo: USC Trojans head coach Kevin O'Neill. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times