On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that USC Athletic Director Pat Haden reached out to former USC men’s basketball head coach Tim Floyd. The two met for over three hours to discuss the Trojans’ coaching situation beyond this season. Haden declined to comment, but Floyd said everything “went well.”
At this point, I’d like to interject. Tim Floyd? The guy who unceremoniously left town and played a part in the Trojans vacating their 21-win 2007-08 season for possible NCAA infractions? Has Haden lost his mind?
Some will throw out the cliches that come with an ongoing coaching search — Haden is covering his bases and doing his due diligence by speaking to Floyd, who has an intimate knowledge of the program and was fairly successful at USC. After all, Floyd was 85-55 with the Trojans, making three straight NCAA tournament appearances. Few have had his level of success in school history. I get that logic, to a certain extent.
But Floyd, who has maintained his innocence in the wake of the O.J. Mayo scandal that sent shockwaves through an already fragile basketball program, is about as toxic as they come for an athletic director who has tried to distance himself from any shady activity. Whether the current University of Texas at El Paso coach was simply giving his two cents or throwing his name out there as a candidate makes no difference — Haden should not be speaking with Floyd, period.
Though USC has been playing inspired basketball of late, picking up a big-time victory over then-No. 11 Arizona and going 6-2 in its last eight contests, no one can blame Haden for seeing what the coaching market looks like beyond interim option Bob Cantu. In fact, I applaud him for reaching out to longtime Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, who is from Southern California and is the rumored successor to Jim Boeheim.
It’s a match that makes sense for both sides — Hopkins returns home and gets his first head coaching opportunity while USC gets one of the most desired assistants in the country with the pedigree of an elite basketball program to boot — which is what makes the Floyd situation even more dumbfounding.
There are a baker’s dozen of elite assistants across the country licking their chops at the opportunity to be the head honcho at a major university. There are also plenty of other candidates, including Memphis’ Josh Pastner and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, who would have some level of interest in the position.
And there’s still Cantu, who has righted the ship for an underperforming team that is entering the Pac-12 tournament playing its best basketball of the season. The options are there. No need to muddy up the process by bringing bad press into this decision.
That’s what Floyd really is — bad press. He’s pointed out that, technically, the NCAA never found him guilty of any violations. Most have their doubts, but even under the assumption that he’s clean, what’s the point of entertaining the thought of bringing him back? If he truly had no idea about any recruiting violations, then that in itself is an issue no USC sports team should want to deal with. Any media story involving Floyd would make its way back to Mayo.
I’m all for thinking outside the box with this pending coaching decision. I hope Haden chooses someone with recruiting power, NCAA tournament pedigree and the passion necessary to revitalize a mostly dormant team. With Floyd, however, Haden is taking things a step too far. He’s without a doubt an accomplished coach, one capable of turning around a program as he did with USC a few years ago. But when it comes down to it, there are other choices that make more sense and carry far less baggage. The last thing USC needs right now is more controversy surrounding one of its sports teams.
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