O’Neill claims refs’ favoritism for Williams, yet is given a pass by adoring mediaby Javier Morales on Feb. 23, 2011, under Sports
Aw shucks, USC coach Kevin O’Neill is at it again, but I’ll give him a pass because we in the media love his candor.
Wait, give him a pass? Isn’t that what he’s insinuating the Pac-10 refs do about Derrick Williams?
O’Neill, opening up to a couple of L.A. reporters Wednesday, said this about Arizona’s All-American candidate: “He is the most protected dude I’ve seen since Michael Jordan.”
Williams should consider the comparison an honor because, let’s face it, any time a basketball player is mentioned in the same breath with Jordan, it can’t be all that bad. Credit Jordan and now Williams (if you believe O’Neill) for putting themselves in a position where officials think about calling a foul instead of swallowing their whistle.
Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard leads the NBA with 625 free-throw attempts, an astounding 149 more attempts than the next guy, LeBron James (who is accused of receiving the most star treatment by NBA refs).
To steal O’Neill’s line about Williams: Does a player draw a foul against Howard for simply walking across the court? Or could it be that Howard is stronger, quicker to the ball and more assertive than other players, therefore creating more opportunities to draw fouls?
The same can be asked about Williams, whose 187 free throws made is 52 more than the No. 2 player in the Pac-10 in that category — Jared Cunningham of Oregon State.
Who’s fooling whom? Twitter can be enlightening, not just a bunch of random, worthless thoughts and updates. I received this Tweet Tuesday night from a gentleman named Ted Lyons (@TedLyons), who wrote one of the most astute lines I’ve come across on Twitter: “K.O. (O’Neill) gets the Jordan treatment from (ESPN’s) Andy Katz. Don’t see him complaining about that.”
So true. If an ESPN radio listener knew nothing about O’Neill, and his 219-220 career record in 14 years as a collegiate head coach, he or she would think the former Arizona assistant and interim head coach is the next Bobby Knight. Case in point: Why did Stephen A. Smith have O’Neill on his ESPN national radio show last week after the second-tier Trojans just came off a loss at home against Oregon?
Why? Because O’Neill has found his niche with the media.
Smith asked O’Neill as much about the NBA as he did about college basketball because of their partnership when O’Neill coached in the NBA and Smith gravitated toward him for quotes and information. Reporters love O’Neill for speaking his mind and his accessibility.
Some of us in the media laugh off what O’Neill said about the refs’ favoritism for Williams and the question he asked about Jamelle Horne last month after Arizona defeated USC at McKale Center: “I’m still waiting for his NBA career to take off.” That’s O’Neill being O’Neill, we in the media like to say.
A good question to ask: Is O’Neill a good guy to reporters because of his shortcomings as a coach — a way to lessen the criticism — and would he be like this if his teams were consistently ranked in the top 20? None of the high-profile coaches I’ve come across — Lute Olson, Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Bill Self, Roy Williams, etc. — have been the type to shoot the breeze with the media after practice.
Not that they are bad guys. They just don’t find the need to do that on a routine basis.
But what about all the nice things O’Neill says about Arizona? Of course, O’Neill has a soft spot for Arizona, which he said is a sleeper for the national title during the interview with Stephen A. Smith. O’Neill named his son Sean after Sean Elliott. Steve Kerr and Elliott are ardent O’Neill supporters.
However, some of what O’Neill says can be calculated because he knows Arizona remains on the schedule Thursday night and potentially in the Pac-10 tournament. It’s better to butter up Arizona than tell Stephen A. Smith that his Trojans match up favorably with the Wildcats, isn’t it?
O’Neill sure knows how to work the crowd (the media), just like Williams is impeccable with those giving refs.
O’Neill has stoked enough of a fire inside Horne and now Williams and perhaps the Pac-10 refs who will call the game Thursday. Don’t think for a second that Arizona’s assistant coaches and teammates will not remind Williams about the comments about his so-called preferential treatment.
Williams Tweeted on Tuesday night: “I’m going for the school record again Thursday … 23 free throws attempted just because!”