Even though conference play has just begun, the college basketball coaching carousel is already in motion. After going 45-61 with only one NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, USC fired coach Kevin O’Neil after yet another slow star for the Trojans.
Although known as a football school, USC basketball is a solid coaching job because of the location, academic standing, facilities, and brand name. Cross-town rival UCLA usually dominates the basketball scene, but that’s not to say the Trojans can’t change that with a big hire.
Here is a look at the top 5 potential candidates for the Trojans:
5. Bruce Pearl (ESPN, formerly Tennessee):
Photo Credit: AP
Despite a successful run at Tennessee, Pearl was booted out of Knoxville after a major recruiting scandal and an absolute beating at the hands of Michigan in his final March Madness game. Pearl has been working as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, and with a few years out of the coaching game, he may be ready to reenter. Pearl has proven to be a great coach, but Athletic Director Pat Haden may not want to hire someone with a history of cheating considering USC’s recent scandals.
4. Tubby Smith (Minnesota):
Photo Credit: AP/Jim Mone
To put it simply, who wouldn’t want to leave the cold Minnesota weather for that hot California sun? Smith has finally revitalized the Gophers’ program, and Minnesota is a team that should be on everyone’s radar this season, polling consistently in the top 15. At age 61, Smith could dedicate the rest of his career to making USC basketball prominent, as he has done with other programs, and go down as a legend in the Trojan family.
3. Jay Wright (Villanova):
Ever since losing Scottie Reynolds, Villanova has become somewhat irrelevant in the Big East. Although nothing has been said yet, it is very possible that Wright could lose his job in the next few years, which may cause him to bolt to USC. This would is a win-win situation for both the school and coach, as USC would get its big name hire and Wright would get a brand new start.
2. Shaka Smart (VCU):
Smart’s name will continue to come up every time there is a head coaching vacancy at big time school. In both of the past two seasons, Smart has led a dark horse VCU team deep into the NCAA tournament with his “organized chaos” style of basketball. Imagine how good Smart’s team would be if he had the ability to recruit the nation’s top players.
1. Jamie Dixon (Pitt):
This could be the perfect opportunity for Dixon to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor (Ben Howland) and leave Pitt for sunny Southern California. Pitt is no longer the national threat it once was, and a move to the ACC next year may influence Coach Dixon to get a fresh start at USC. Dixon has the track record and recruiting ability to help SC compete for a PAC 12 title right away. It also helps that Dixon is from the Los Angeles area.