March 23, 2013 by Josh
This March Madness season, several names have been thrown around concerning the USC head coaching vacancy: Dixon (moot point now), Hopkins… and even Floyd. Obviously, hiring any of these coaches would be a huge step forward for the USC basketball program. Like when you try to skip two stairs on your way up the staircase kind of huge. These coaches have proven their worth in their respective programs and would gradually build our program to compete in the upper half of the Pac-12 from year to year.
But why, I ask, settle for just a solid coach?
Why can’t USC go after the holy trinity of possibly available coaches: Smart, Stevens, or Few? Or prolific coaches already comfortable in their programs such as Pastner, Amaker, or Buzz?
Time after time I’ve heard from the naysayers: “Why would (insert coach here) come to USC?” or “USC isn’t a good enough job for (insert coach here)”.
To these naysayers, I ask what is there not to like about the USC job? In my opinion (and Andy Katz’s too), the USC basketball program has the potential to be an elite program, one that finishes on top the of Pac-12 and beats down the Bruins year after year. Here’s why.
First of all, we’ve been conditioned to think the USC basketball program is undesirable. Under the futile reign of K.O., attendance was down, students literally showed up by the tens, and nobody (including recruits) would think twice about showing up for a less-than-marquee USC-Oregon State game on a Thursday night. With his losing ways and a ridiculously slow offense that purposefully wasted time running in circles, K.O. drove basketball at USC into a ditch in the back of Trojan’s minds. And to those who remember USC going to the tournament two years ago, remember that that team was full of Tim Floyd’s players, not K.O.’s.
Let’s step back from the current state of USC basketball and evaluate the program holistically. There are a number of aspects of USC basketball that could prime the program for future greatness:
- Southern California is a hotbed of high school basketball. Derrick Williams, Kawhi Leonard, Allen Crabbe, Jamaal Franklin, Solomon Hill are just a few that come to mind. If USC were to have even a mildly competent coach, USC could keep many of these recruits in-state.
- USC facilities are relatively new. The Galen Center may not have that dingy, old-school, I-can-hear-the-wood-squeak-when-you-step-on-it charm that they might have at Butler, but Staples Center Jr.does have clean floors and ample concession stands, and is the current venue of Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards! In addition, there is a huge practice facility and offices are attached to the Galen Center. And unbeknownst to many because of USC’s recent futility, the Galen Center is SUPER loud when filled properly with screaming fans. If filled with raucous students on a regular basis, the Galen Center could be one of the hardest places to play in the country. Especially since Galen’s student section is right up on the court baseline, as opposed to the spread out feel of Pauley Pavilion. Plus, the Galen Center is right on campus, across the street from freshman dorms.
- And then there are the many reasons why good recruits would want to come here:
- The weather. As a recruit, why would you want to play at Cal, where it rains often? Why would you want to play in Washington or Oregon, where it rains even more?
- The location. As a recruit, why would you want to go play basketball in the middle of nowhere in Spokane? Or Kansas? Or Tucson? Sure there’s somewhat of an allure for a sweet college town, but USC is in the middle of a cultural mecca! Plus, what other college basketball program is within walking distance of TWO NBA franchises?
- The women. This doesn’t need to be explained.
- The academics. There is a major for everybody at USC, ranging from the hard sciences if you really want to get your nerd on, to the softer degrees if you just want to cruise.
- The student body would show up to games if the basketball team won. Just look at the attendance when the Nik Vucevic teams of a few years ago played Arizona and UCLA. Students would love for another excuse to drink on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. Los Angeles fans show up to watch a winning team. Consider it a sort of catch-22. Fans don’t want to show up unless the team is winning. But it is much easier to win when fans are showing up. This is the sort of cycle of irrelevancy that can be broken with a new coaching hire.
- USC has a historic rivalry with the Bruins, while the Pac-12 (besides last year) seems to bring consistently good competition. With its new T.V. deal, the conference also brings in the big bucks that will always be feeding Heritage Hall.
- USC (thanks to football) has a national brand.
- Finally, Pat Haden is willing to spend the big bucks here. The big, big bucks. USC paid K.O. $1.7 million a year. Imagine what USC would pay for somebody 100 times better? (Hopefully not $170 million a year, for tuition’s sake).
What is there not to love here? Haden needs to reach for the stars, open up the pocketbook, and the rest of the puzzle will fall neatly into place.