USC fires Kevin O'Neill; Jamie Dixon speculation immediately starts

Stephen Dunn

USC fired Kevin O'Neill today and Jamie Dixon predictably became the center of attention.

It happens every year. It really does. This time it's notable only because it's so early, but it's here nonetheless.

USC basketball coach Kevin O'Neill was fired Monday during an 8 a.m PT meeting with athletic director Pat Haden and associate athletic director Steve Lopes.

USC was 7-10 this season under O'Neill, including a 2-2 mark in Pac-12 play. A year ago the injury-riddled Trojans finished 6-26 and won only one conference game.

7-10 isn't disastrous, but coming on the heels of a 6-26 season (with only one win coming after December 19th), it would be hard to say that it wasn't deserved. It was a pretty big surprise that O'Neill was kept on after last season, but January 14th seems pretty early to fire a basketball coach, really.

Anyway, if you've followed Pitt basketball even casually over the past decade, then you know where this is going:

Collective sigh in 3...2...1....

With all due respect to USC, I'd be stunned if Dixon seriously considered leaving Pittsburgh for the Trojans. Dixon has had dozens of chances to "go home" to the West Coast - including USC once before - and was never really all that interested. He declined interest from Cal. Oregon offered to pay him in large sacks of gold coins with "$" on them. Arizona offered him a chance to take over a just-a-shade-below-elite program. TCU even offered the opportunity to coach his alma matter, an advance that was similarly declined.

While some of the speculation centers around Dixon's supposed "West Coast Guy-ness," another source seems to be that he's so unhappy about the move to the ACC that he's ready to jump ship. Dixon did his part by worshipping at the alter of Big East basketball, but I think he'd be hard pressed to say that it wasn't in the best interest of the program. He has toed to the company line about the move and while he may truly be nostalgic about the old Big East, I doubt he wishes he'd be playing road games against Tulane and SMU next year instead. As Rush the Court correctly notes, if Dixon is looking for a new home in a strong basketball conference, the Pac-12 probably isn't the way to go.

While we'll probably post some updates to this story - like when Dixon flatly denies interest or when USC settles on a third tier candidate after being rejected by Mark Few, Jamie Dixon, Josh Pastner, Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens - but this story is dozens of notches below the "Paul Chryst to Wisconsin?" on the panic-meter.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics.

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