USC suspends coach for rest of Pac-10 tourney

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Southern California coach Kevin O’Neill was suspended for the rest of the Pac-10 tournament Friday after getting into a verbal confrontation with an Arizona booster.

The school announced the suspension about two hours before the Trojans played the Wildcats in the semifinals at Staples Center. It said assistant Bob Cantu would take over.

USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement that O’Neill would receive additional discipline that would remain private.

O’Neill apologized through multiple media outlets earlier Friday for what he said was a confrontation involving himself, his wife and the Arizona booster on Thursday night at the team’s hotel after the Trojans’ quarterfinal victory against California.

The coach and his wife, Roberta, stopped at the JW Marriott to pick up some items before returning to their home. As they came off the elevator, O’Neill encountered an Arizona booster with whom he said he doesn’t get along.

O’Neill said he and the booster got into a verbal confrontation in the lobby and that his wife also became involved. He said there was no physical contact and that the argument ended when a security guard approached.

“I want to apologize to my team, our university and our fans for my involvement last night in an incident with a fan,” he said in a statement through the school.

“I understand my behavior as the leader of our team was unacceptable. I used poor judgment and put myself, my team and USC in a bad light. I regret that I have let them down.”

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said he agreed with Haden’s decision.

“We commend USC for its actions,” he said.

Through 14 seasons as a college coach, O’Neill has developed a reputation for being fiery both on and off the court.

He’s in his second season with the Trojans, who were back in the league tourney after sitting out last season as part of self-imposed sanctions for NCAA violations involving former star O.J. Mayo.

O’Neill was hired by coach Lute Olson as an assistant at Arizona before the 2007-08 season, and became interim coach when Olson took a medical leave of absence.

O’Neill led the Wildcats to a 19-15 record and the school’s 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, at the time the nation’s longest active streak.

He was designated Olson’s permanent successor, but when the Hall of Famer returned that spring he announced O’Neill would no longer be part of the program.

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