Tim Floyd worked the room. USC's basketball coach smiled and laughed with Trojans boosters, listened intently when circumstances called for it, and posed for a few photos.
What he didn't do was talk about the main issues confronting his program.
Floyd appeared Wednesday night along with football Coach Pete Carroll at the Irvine Hyatt Regency, the first stop on a meet-and-greet tour with Trojans supporters across the state over the next couple of weeks.
The free fall that the basketball team is currently experiencing, the specter of an NCAA investigation into the Trojans' basketball and football programs, and rampant speculation that Floyd's job might be on the line was not part of the agenda.
The crowd that filled one of the hotel's ballrooms mustered only one tough question, which was asked of both coaches: There has been this cloud of the NCAA, are we ever going to get out of it?
Carroll quickly answered, saying that when he first got to USC his goal was to build a program where, "everyone was coming after us."
"Be careful what you wish for," Carroll added, also saying that scrutiny was the price "for being on top."
Floyd did not respond to the question.
He did, however, answer a question about the recent rash of players disappearing from his roster -- USC had three players declare for the NBA draft and has lost three recruits since the season ended -- by saying, "One morning in March, one of our graduate assistants pulled up three articles that had us ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in early polls for next season.
"By 1 p.m., DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett all declared for the NBA."
The tone of the event was set early, with moderator John Jackson, a former Trojans football player, reminding the gathering, some of whom paid as much as $350 to attend, that there were questions that couldn't be answered.
Carroll mentioned that the media was present and urged the crowd to "have respect of the issues."
Floyd opened with a joke, "commending" Carroll on his powder-blue tie. But he ended with a no comment, refusing to submit to questions posed by The Times after the event, sticking with the stance USC has taken in the wake of news that the NCAA is investigating whether the school has exhibited proper institutional control over its powerhouse athletic program.
That investigation stems from allegations that Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush accepted gifts and his family free rent from would-be marketers who wanted him as a client and that thousands of dollars in cash and gifts were funneled to star basketball player O.J. Mayo by a representative of a sports agency.
The basketball portion of the investigation became even more spectacular this month when Louis Johnson told reporters that on Feb. 14, 2007, Floyd had given an envelope with at least $1,000 in $100 bills to that same agent's "runner" -- Rodney Guillory, the man responsible for bringing Mayo to USC. Johnson, a former sportswriter, had been an associate of Guillory's and an acquaintance of Mayo's.
Before Wednesday, Floyd had not spoken publicly about Trojans basketball since April 2, the day he announced that despite overtures from the University of Arizona about its job, he was staying at USC. And a lot had happened since.
With an NCAA investigation already looming, Johnson's additional accusation plus the swirl of player defections resulted in Floyd's job status becoming a hot topic on college basketball websites and message boards. There were reports he would be fired; other reports said he and the school were working on a buyout.
Not even the remaining players seem to know what's going on. A few, speaking anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the situation, said they were as much in the dark about their team's future as anyone else.
"No one ever mentions it, and we've been trying to block out the distractions and ignore it," guard Marcus Simmons said of the NCAA investigation.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
A chronology of USC basketball news since the Trojans lost to Michigan State in the second round of NCAA tournament:
March 31: At the team's end-of-season banquet, Coach Tim Floyd urges underclassmen to forgo the NBA and stay in school.
April 1: One day after his speech, Floyd takes a private jet to Tucson for discussions about the University of Arizona job.
April 2: Floyd announces he will stay at USC, reiterating that it will be his last job.
April 7: The Times reports that freshman DeMar DeRozan and juniors Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett will declare for the NBA draft.
April 14: Recruit Solomon Hill of Los Angeles Fairfax High recants oral commitment to USC, signs with Arizona.
April 30: Fairfax's Renardo Sidney, a national top-10 recruit who had committed to the Trojans, signs with Mississippi State.
May 12: Louis Johnson, who says he was an associate of Rodney Guillory, the man responsible for bringing O.J. Mayo to USC, tells Yahoo! Sports and The Times that Floyd gave Guillory an envelope with at least $1,000 cash on Feb. 14, 2007.
May 22: Recruit Noel Johnson asks to be released from the USC scholarship he accepted, enabling him to attend another school.
May 27: Floyd speaks to USC boosters in Irvine, but says nothing about the NCAA situation.
Source: Los Angeles Times