In a somewhat surprising move, Tim Floyd resigned as the head coach of USC basketball yesterday amid allegations involving his recruitment of O.J. Mayo. The move by Floyd seems to indicate that USC basketball will be hit by some sort of sanctions when an NCAA investigation is complete, and Floyd's resignation may actually help USC by preventing them from having an even worse penalty. USC may have asked Floyd to resign.
The USC basketball program had really been rapidly spiraling downhill from the moment the season ended. In a postseason banquet Floyd lectured his players about staying in school, claiming they could be a national title contender if they stuck together. The very next day, Floyd was on a plane to Tucson to consider the Arizona job. About a week later, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, and Daniel Hackett declared for the NBA Draft. DeRozan's move was expected, since he will be a lottery pick and he wants to pay his sick mother's medical bills -- even though DeRozan would quite obviously benefit from another year in school. Gibson's decision was disappointing, but not wholly unexpected either. Most think he'll go in the second round. Hackett's decision was a shock, particularly since he has no realistic NBA hopes and will probably wind up playing in Italy. He also left the Trojans dangerously thin at point guard, as backup Donte Smith said he intended to transfer.
Not long thereafter, USC lost top recruit Solomon Hill to of all schools, Arizona. They had to back off of another top recruit in Renardo Sydney because the hot water they were in with the Mayo investigation, and couldn't afford to take another player who could get them in trouble. As concerns about sanctions grew, recruit Noel Johnson asked out of his letter of intent, and other recruits such as Lamont Jones were considering doing the same.
Then Marcus Johnson, another player with no realistic NBA aspirations, announced his decision to go pro, and Floyd showed his frustration by saying: "Kansas has two players who would have been NBA lottery picks, Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, and they are returning to school. Good for them. Our guys get an offer from Islamabad and they're gone."
The USC program saw considerable success under Floyd. Anyone who has lived in LA for a substantial period of time knows how bad USC basketball has been. Other than 2 amazing years with Harold Miner, and one surprising Sam Clancy-led Elite 8 appearance, USC hoops has done nothing of note. Going to a USC basketball game at the Sports Arena used to feel like going to medieval dungeon.
The Trojans have now made the NCAA Tournament in 3 consecutive seasons -- every season it has played in the Galen Center -- which is a school record. Floyd recruited big-time talent to come to USC as well. OJ Mayo dramatically changed the perception of USC basketball in the hoops community, and led the Trojans to get other big names like DeRozan, Davon Jefferson, and for a moment, Sydney and Hill. It also helped that Mayo told numerous recruits that Floyd was a great coach.
Yet despite the success, many USC fans would tell you that Floyd's teams underachieved. Reaching the Sweet 16 in 2007 was a nice surprise, but losing in the first round and only getting a 6-seed in 2008 with Mayo and Jefferson was a tremendous disappointment. This year's team needed a remarkable late-season run and Pac-10 Tournament title just to get into the NCAA Tournament. Had USC played to its potential earlier in the season, they might have gotten a higher seed, and would not have faced a team as good as eventual national runner-up Michigan State in the second round. In the meantime, attendance continued to fall at the Galen Center this season.
Under normal circumstances, the USC job would be very appealing to most college head coaches. But these are not normal circumstances. The potential of USC receiving sanctions will shrink the applicant pool. Furthermore, it's unlikely that any established college head coach would leave their job in the middle of the summer, when they would have difficulty assembling a quality staff and leave their current programs in chaos. Pitt's Jamie Dixon may like the idea of coming back to LA, but not right now. Similarly, Mark Few at Gonzaga, Randy Bennett at St. Mary's, and Craig Robinson at Oregon State all feel like longshots.
My guess is the USC will need to look at good head coaches who are currently unemployed. Mike Garrett has also shown a penchant for hiring coaches with pro experience, as we saw with Pete Carroll and Tim Floyd -- although neither was actually his first choice.
Two names that immediately come to mind are Reggie Theus and Eric Musselman. Theus did a fantastic job at New Mexico State, quickly turning a woeful Aggie program into an NCAA Tournament team. He then took the Sacramento Kings job, which was clearly the wrong situation for him, and he was fired after just over a year. Theus is an Inglewood native, and he's dabbled in acting. Musselman a bright and energetic coach who was the runner-up for coach-of-the-year with the Golden State Warriors. But Golden State was a near impossible job, as was Sacramento, where he also coached. Musselman has recently stated a desire to coach in college.
Billy Gillespie could be another candidate. He did wonders at UTEP, a program that was in disarray when he inherited it. He later had success at Texas A&M before going to Kentucky and getting fired after two seasons because that clearly wasn't the right situation for him. At USC, Gillespie could run a program his way, although I'm not sure if he has any recruiting ties out here.
The LA Times reported that Laker assistants Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw could be interested. It's doubtful though that either would be seriously considered. Shaw has no head coaching experience or college coaching experience. Cleamons had forgettable stints as a head coach at Youngstown State and with the Dallas Mavericks, but he's on no one's radar.
Other names that come to mind include PJ Carlesimo, Lon Kruger, Dan Monson, Mike Davis, and USC is reportedly wooing Jeff Van Gundy.
USC basketball is not completely hopeless this year. A team with Dwight Lewis, Leonard Washington, Alex Stepheson, Marcus Simmons, Nikola Vucevic, and 'Lil Romeo has some holes, but can certainly win some games. They're certainly better than Indiana was this past season. But USC would still have to give any replacement to Tim Floyd a Tom Crean-like long-term contract. And they may need to appoint an assistant like Phil Johnson or Gib Arnold to run the program while they wait to sort out the NCAA violations.
As for Floyd, I'm sure he'll lay low for a little while. It wouldn't be surprising to see him become an NBA assistant, which is sort of like joining the Club Med of the coaching community. Most NBA assistant coaches make six-figure salaries, always manage to be employed, and face none of the stresses and scrutiny that hit the head coach. If USC is able to come out of this with a minor punishment, then it's possible that Floyd could get another college head coaching job, perhaps at a small southern school.