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June 20, 2009A lot of people don't really like Kevin O'Neill as a head coach.
He's been labeled a defensive coach. He's berated players with obscenities. He's been accused of leaving teams worse than they were when he took over.
"Kevin is an acquired taste," ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said. "He'll be the most intense thing they've ever seen at USC."
Fraschilla and O'Neill crossed paths when both were upcoming assistant coaches. Fraschilla said he has not heard grumblings that O'Neill has run dirty programs, but that hasn't stopped others from griping.
"I can only tell you back in the old days, the era when I came up as an assistant coach, Kevin was one of the most relentless, best recruiters in the country " Fraschilla said. "He has an over-the-top work ethic. Anyone who works hard at recruiting is going to annoy his peers.
"That's a good thing."
Fraschilla had plenty of things to say about the new USC head coach Saturday morning. Fraschilla even went as far as the mention a name that carries more weight at USC than any other.
"There may be a lot of people who don't like his style, but at the end of the day, he's a very good basketball coach and a non-nonsense guy. Is he going to be Paul Hackett or Pete Carroll?" Fraschilla said. "He's probably going to be more like Pete Carroll. It's not a given. Basketball doesn't have the same cache as football at USC, but he's got the kind of experience where he won't be out-worked.
"He won't be out-coached. He's likely not to be out-recruited once all things are equal. He's going to give them an honest days effort."
Fraschilla said the defensive-coach label isn't 100 percent accurate.
"Kevin's an outstanding, well-rounded coach," Fraschilla said. "He gained the reputation of being a defensive coach after working with Jeff Van Gundy in New York. Anyone who has worked with Jeff automatically becomes an outstanding defensive coach just based on that system.
"Jeff's system was handed down from Pat Riley and Jeff's handed it down to guys like Kevin and Tom Thibodeau."
However his reputation for being very demanding isn't a fabrication.
"I would tell the guys remaining at USC to get in shape," Fraschilla said. "In terms of intensity and getting a team to play hard, that's not going to be an issue with Kevin. It'll be his way or the highway."
Fraschilla acknowledged O'Neill's last stop in the Pac-10, filling in at Arizona for Lute Olson, didn't go so well. Still, blaming O'Neil wouldn't be fair.
"Nobody knows what happened unless you were on the inside," Fraschilla said. "That was a completely dysfunctional situation based on Coach Olson's health, based on mismanagement of the basketball program from the athletic director down. That whole situation was mismanaged for two years. It wasn't something you could put on just one person. There were a lot of variables."
Ultimately, Fraschilla believes O'Neill could be the right man for the Trojans at the right time.
"He's a relentless recruiter. I remember how good he was. He's going to be a whirlwind. He's probably what USC needs right now. They need a jolt, and they need someone who isn't afraid of a challenge," Fraschilla said. "Let's face it. USC and Kevin O'Neill basically need each other. He needed a job; they needed a coach.
"They were looking for someone with NBA experience, and it seems like a good fit."