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USC suspends coach before Pac-10 loss

March 12, 2011 at 2:45 PM

LOS ANGELES, March 12 (UPI) -- The University of Southern California was reeling Saturday after head basketball coach Kevin O'Neill was suspended shortly before a postseason loss.

The Trojans fell to Arizona 67-62 in Friday's semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles -- a frustrating setback that O'Neill missed due to a suspension handed down by Athletic Director Pat Haden, the Orange County Register reported.

Haden suspended O'Neill for the remainder of the tournament only hours before the game. The AD said the coach -- who formerly was on the Wildcats' staff -- had gotten into a verbal confrontation with an Arizona fan at the team hotel.

Assistant Coach Bob Cantu took over and presided over the Trojans' hard-fought loss.

"We hold our coaches to very high standards, as they are role models to the student-athletes they lead," Haden said in a statement. "Clearly, Coach O'Neill used poor judgment and failed in this situation."

"I feel terrible for our players. I've never liked a group better than this team. I let them down. To me, there's nothing worse as a coach than letting your team down," O'Neill told the Register.

O'Neill said he expected to return to the bench after the Pac-10 event.

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