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USC basketball should be resigned to its fate

CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The Trojans were a dead program walking well before coach Tim Floyd quit Tuesday. The big question is whether football, which pays the bills, will have to pay a price too.

June 10, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE | ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Tim Floyd submitted his resignation Tuesday and Athletic Director Mike Garrett accepted it so fast he probably got a paper cut snapping it out of the fax machine.

The good news, of course, is that it's only the fall of USC basketball, leaving the all-important work of preserving, defending and protecting the constitution of USC football.

What happened to Floyd was inevitable and the appointed hour of his departure was inconsequential. The fact Floyd handed a resignation news cookie to a paper in his home state, Mississippi, only proves he was loyal to people other than the players he coached until Tuesday at 12:59 p.m.

Yesterday, today, next week, next month . . . who cares?

Before the NCAA report comes out on possible infractions . . . after the report . . . what did it matter?

Anyone who could follow a bouncing ball understood USC basketball has been over for several weeks now, and it's going to be over for several years.

More than two decades ago, Southern Methodist football received the "death penalty" for crimes committed against the NCAA.

USC and Floyd succumbed to a death "watch" penalty.

How fast it unraveled was certainly fascinating, and piecing the time line together is more fun that Sudoku.

One March minute Daniel Hackett had stolen the ball and was heading for the game-tying basket against Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Then the ball slipped out of Hackett's hand, Michigan State won and advanced all the way to the championship game, and USC hoops became the last scene in "Thelma and Louise."

You need the pivotal pinpoint?

March 31, the Tuesday before the Final Four, at USC's season-ending banquet, Floyd implored his prime-time fence sitters to return and make the Trojans a national title contender -- it wasn't that much of a stretch.

Hours later, Floyd jumped on a plane to interview for the Arizona job.

Days later, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Hackett announced their intentions to turn pro -- so much for the national title.

OK, the bazookas were gone, but the Trojans had some good recruits coming in, until book-in-the-works Louis Johnson poisoned the future with his latest contention to Yahoo that Floyd had once handed an envelope with $1,000 to O.J. Mayo.

The NCAA, meanwhile, was combining the basketball and football investigations, leading some to believe a conclusion was forthcoming and the words "lack of institutional control" might lead to banishment from the NCAA tournament.

For recruits looking for exactly one shining moment before trotting off to the NBA, this uneasiness added up to a collective "See ya."

USC took a pass on already iffy Renardo Sidney, who opted out to Mississippi State, while other prospects checked their watches and noticed it was time to get out.

Floyd joined football Coach Pete Carroll on the rubber-chicken circuit, visiting USC boosters around the state, with Carroll handling all the NCAA-related questions as Floyd watched, in between green beans and dessert, his team disappear.

Noel Johnson was let out of his commitment. Marcus Johnson opted to go pro even though he was granted a sixth year of eligibility, prompting Floyd's already famous "our guys get an offer from Islamabad and they're gone" line.

Floyd finally said: check please?

The sad part is Floyd is a decent guy and good tactician and, in a very short time, became arguably the most successful basketball coach in school history -- leading the Trojans to an unprecedented (for them) three straight NCAA tournaments.

And here comes the almost comical question: Who wants to coach USC basketball?

The new hire will inherit the specter of NCAA sanctions that could kick USC to the closet for years.

Even if the NCAA exonerates USC's basketball program, the next guy inherits . . . what?

As far as landing a big-name coach, well, June is never a good time. Arizona was pilloried for waiting until March to hire a successor to Lute Olson and was lucky to get Sean Miller from Xavier -- for Miller's price.

Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon?

Last time anyone checked, he was smart -- and nobody could want to get back to his home state this badly.

So that leaves an up-and-comer from the mid-majors Garrett must identify, or someone like give-me-a-chance Michael Cooper, already on campus as coach of the women's team, or maybe some Lakers assistant.

What it means for the foreseeable USC basketball future: Turn out the lights at Galen Center, a beautiful arena the Trojans couldn't fill to capacity even in these, the good times.

Remember, like we said, in the end, it's only Tim Floyd who's leaving and it's only USC basketball being asked to take a long walk in a dark alley.

USC football opens at home against San Jose State on Sept. 5.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

The Floyd years

A look at Tim Floyd's year-by-year coaching results at USC:

*--* YEAR OVERALL PAC-10 NCAA TOURNAMENT 2005-06 17-13 8-10 (6th) No appearance 2006-07 25-12 11-7 (T-3rd) Sweet 16 2007-08 21-12 11-7 (T-3rd) First round 2008-09 22-13 9-9* (T-5th) Second round *--*

* -- won Pac-10 tournament

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