O’Neill reinstated as USC coach

With speculation that USC coach Kevin O’Neill may lose his job after this involvement in an altercation Thursday night inside the JW Marriott, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden answered the rumors with a decision about the coach’s immediate future.

Haden, who suspended O’Neill for the remainder of the Pac-10 tournament on Friday afternoon, decided to reinstate the coach on Sunday morning.

“Effective immediately, I am reinstating Kevin O’Neill as our men’s basketball head coach,” Haden said in a statement. “Coach O’Neill and I have talked numerous times these past few days. He has continued to express his regret and embarrassment over the incident that led to his suspension from any remaining games of the Pac-10 conference tournament. “

Haden did reiterate that although O’Neill would be reinstated immediately, the coach could still face internal discipline by the athletic department.

O’Neill’s one-game suspension came before his team’s biggest game of the year, in what turned out to be a 65-60 defeat to the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-10 tournament semifinal.

The Trojans were coached on Friday night by head assistant coach Bob Cantu in the defeat.

USC awaits a decision on its postseason at 3 p.m. today when the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 teams is announced.

Although the Trojans are currently listed as ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lundardi’s last team to receive an at large-bid, O’Neill admitted he feels at fault for the team’s shortcomings against Arizona.

“I temper my excitement of being reinstated with the realization that I made a serious error in judgment the other night,” O’Neill said in response to Haden’s decision. “The disciplinary measures that Pat Haden took, including the suspension, were absolutely the right call. My wife, Roberta, and I are both very apologetic for the embarrassment we caused the Trojan Family. We vow to move forward in a positive manner.”