USC athletic director Pat Haden announced Monday that head coach Kevin O'Neill was relieved of his coaching duties for the Trojans. Taking over as interim head coach is long time assistant Bob Cantu, who will fill the role while the coaching search is conducted.
The Ducks will come to the Galen Center a perfect 3-0 in Pac-12 Conference play (14-2 overall), including handing then No. 3 Arizona its first loss of the season.
"The decision has been made," said senior guard Jio Fontan. "It's a great opportunity for Coach Cantu who we feel is well prepared for this opportunity."
After the Ducks Thursday, USC will host OSU on Saturday. The Beavers are 10-6 but have struggled to a 0-3 conference start.
Switching up the style
Cantu says he'll be making some slight adjustments to the Trojans' playing style going forward into the Pac-12 schedule.
"I'm open to adding some zone," he said, noting the presence the three 7-footers on the roster could create.
"I want to press a little bit and I want to try to create easy baskets," Cantu said.
The USC 12th-year assistant began to install these changes on Tuesday, the first day back on the court for the Trojans since their first road win dating back to March 5, 2011.
"(We're) just ready to move on pretty much," said forward Eric Wise.
More than a coach to Fontan
Though O'Neill didn't get the wins necessary to keep his position as head coach, senior Fontan says he'll always have a mentor to look up to in O'Neill.
"He's somebody who I will remain in contact with hopefully for the rest of my life," Fontan said at Monday's press conference.
"He's been extremely important as far as getting me here," Fontan continued. "Not only to have the opportunity to play here but to get a degree from here."
Sticking through four
The head coaching role at USC has nearly been a revolving door since the departure of Henry Bibby in 2005. Jim Saia took over before Tim Floyd was ushered in and then out as O'Neill took over in 2009.
Through it all has been Cantu. This is his 12th season with the Trojans, his 17th season on the collegiate basketball scene.
"I've been able to stay at the same place and get the same level of experience," Cantu said on Monday, "which is very rare, but I'm extremely thankful to all those coaches."
He's also picked up styles and techniques from each coach who he has seen come and go. "I do feel fortunate that I've worked for two very good man-to-man coaches," he explained. "And I did work for Henry Bibby who was a great zone coach."
As far as if Cantu sees this opportunity as chance to make a case that he can be the head guy?
"It's an opportunity to be the head coach for right now," he said. "As an assistant your goal is always to become a head coach.
I think if you have success as a team then individual people have success, so really it's not about trying to get the job or anything like that."