Lorenzo Nathan knew he wanted to coach basketball after he got out of the U.S. Army last year.
So, two months before he would be medically retired because of an injury to his left arm, Nathan, 28, of San Diego called USC Coach Kevin O'Neill and asked if he could shadow him.
O'Neill gets a lot of those calls, but this time he said yes. "I don't know why I ended up following up with him," O'Neill said.
Since then, the former staff sergeant has attended practice regularly and also shares stories with the team.
"He puts everything in perspective," guard Dwight Lewis said.
On Wednesday, as a sign of gratitude, Nathan gave O'Neill a framed guidon of the cavalry scout, Nathan's previous Army job. "I'm very flattered," O'Neill said.
Nathan spent seven years in the Army, including seven months in southeastern Baghdad. He's studying at Barstow Community College. Eventually, he'd like to coach.
"The camaraderie here and in a scout platoon, it's not much different," he said.
He also said O'Neill would have been a great leader in the Army.
"He's a no-nonsense kind of guy; that's definitely a characteristic you need in the Army," Nathan said. "And he doesn't accept anything less than greatness from his players."
Nathan said he'd been to one game this season, when USC beat UC Riverside, but he'll attend Sunday when the Trojans host UCLA.