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February 24, 2013

Time to get serious about hoops here

Another slap in the face for anyone who cares about USC basketball.

Although it would be hard to imagine why anyone would care any more.

Certainly not after Sunday's beginning-to-end embarrassment that allowed a UCLA team, playing on the road and without its best player Travis Wear, an unathletic and often uninspired Bruins bunch without a center and a team without much history or inclination to defend anyone, a team that USC had dominated until the final minutes in winning at Pauley, to just take USC out of a game they were really never in.

"It just wasn't our day today," USC interim coach Bob Cantu said.

Not Pat Haden's and J.K. McKay's day despite their yucking it up with the USC students through the "Harlem Shake" for a Trojans team that played like the Washington Generals in this 75-59 super-stinker of a non-effort.

Nor should we expect any of those USC students back for what could have been an important two-game homestand this week against the Arizona schools. That's the problem with increasingly smarter student bodies. Fool them once, shame on the USC athletic department. Fool them twice . . . well, that's not going to happen.

Watching this game was torture. Watching the Trojans fail to run anything on offense maybe 90 percent of their possessions was maddening.

Watching them play zombie defense -- although to call it "defense" is stretching the definition of the word -- was sickening. Allowing a UCLA team with its best scorer, Shabazz Muhammad, barely able to see with conjunctivitis knock down 17 of 28 shots the first half with nary a hand in anyone's face is stomach-turning to anyone who cares about basketball -- or USC.

When you think of the millions of dollars in coaching salaries (maybe $3 million), scholarships ($750,000) and all the other expenses it took to get them here today and open Galen for a game, it's obscene.

But maybe this will make the point here. There's more to being an AD that putting on an alternate helmet for a dance number. How about getting the right guy to coach this team? Or getting rid of the wrong guy when you had the chance. How about that. Sure, maybe it's hard for a first-time AD to figure that out right away -- but two extra years just to be fair to KO?

How about being fair to these clueless USC players, maybe the greatest collection of low basketball IQ's in Division I history. Does anyone here know how to play the game? Were you watching? Obviously not.

How can a team simultaneously be standing around and not ever in the game and yet out of control? It's almost not physically possible to combine those two contradictory styles in one game on one team.

Well, now it's time to find someone who does -- as Tim Floyd did.

First-time AD's and never-before interim coaches are a deadly combination. As much as Bob Cantu has been a breath of fresh air after KO, today showed why this program, if anyone is ever to take it seriously, has to get this hire right. The damage done by KO's time here is almost incalculable.

Like today, when it jumps up at the Trojans in the inability to finish on eight point-blank misses at the goal. Think USC could use those now in a 16-point loss.

Or the inability to take the ball down inside to an Omar Oraby, who dominated the UCLA non-centers when given the chance as unfinished a product as the 7-foot-2 kid from Cairo is right now. His 11 points in 12 minutes is just one coaching oversight here. Where was he the rest of the game? Next to Cantu.

Just as much a failure as it was to take the ball down low not a single time on offense for the first 12 minutes of the game.

Watching USC's 7-foot Dewayne Dedmon clown around on the big screen karaoke during the game as he goes two for eight on mostly fadeaway jumpers and behind-the-backboard folos makes you want to throw something at the scoreboard. USC is beclowning itself here.

Sure, he got 12 rebounds as by far the most athletic player on the floor. So what.

USC basketball, the program of Bill Sharman and Alex Hannum and Tex Winter and Sam Barry and Forrest Twogood deserves far better than what USC (12-15, 7-7 in the Pac-12) offered the 7,984 who showed up Sunday.

"We came out with great energy," Cantu said, contrary to all witness interviews. "But we got down 7-0 and from that point, it was difficult to battle back."

Again, USC needs a big-time serious coach who would not say that -- or even begin to think it. And wouldn't allow his team to open up hitting just two of its first 11 shots while allowing the plodding Bruins to knock down eight of their first 10.

It looked like the Sun Bowl, after the first two three-and-outs, and now we know this was the Sun Bowl -- indoors and without the wind. But everything else pretty much the same.

Time to get serious around here. Someone. Anyone.

Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at weber@uscfootball.com.





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