Quite a few college basketball fans were surprised to see that USC ousted likely Naismith Award winner Kevin Durant and his Texas Longhorns in the second round of the NCAA tournament this past weekend. I admit that I was one of them, blinded by the incredible scoring and defense I had watched the freshman deploy against my hometown Jayhawks on two occasions. Others noted that the Burnt Orangemen had played too many hard-fought games in the late going of the season, and were tiring. Those were the savants who predicted the mild upset.
But how many people outside the Pac-10 would have said that maybe, just maybe, USC had the better team? The Trojans sport four players averaging double figures in scoring, and Freshman Taj Gibson adds close to 9 rebounds per contest. From the bench, five more players log significant minutes. Texas had none of those luxuries, and coach Rick Barnes squandered what is likely to be Durant’s only season in college by failing to truly build a team around his once-in-a-career superstar.
One has to wonder what might have been different if the man on the other sideline were running Texas instead. Tim Floyd has coached USC’s men for just two years. Prior to that he coached the NBA’s Hornets and compiled a miserable 49-190 record with the post-MJ and Scottie Chicago Bulls.
This makes him sound like a bad coach, but he isn’t. He’s simply coached two of the worst pro teams he could get his hands on. Prior to his bad trip in the NBA, Floyd made the Iowa State Cyclones a name to be feared in the Big Eight, leading them to conference championships, national rankings, and eventually a Sweet Sixteen berth. In his early career, he learned from Don Haskins at UTEP, and even led the unheralded University of New Orleans to the NCAA tournament twice.
When he had finally had his fill of the NBA, Floyd went looking for the best college job he could find. So he took over a USC squad that had just gone 13-18 in 2005 under interim coach Jim Saia following the in-season firing of Henry Bibby.
What made this a dream job? The new building. USC had finally begun construction on the $147 million Galen Center, the first true on-campus home for Trojan hoops, ever. The fancy new digs, and Floyd’s NBA credentials, lured the next Kevin Durant to USC. A kid by the name of Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo will suit up in Cardinal and Gold next year.
So maybe we should have seen this coming. Maybe I should have seen this coming. The University of Southern California has had great success with failed pro coaches before. Anyone heard of a guy named Pete Carroll? It’s a win-win situation for the coaches and for the school. The combination of the school’s money and reputation and the coach’s big name and pro connections bring in top-quality talent, and that talent creates wins.
My theory will really be put to the test next year. Tim Floyd and USC will likely only have one year with O.J. Mayo, just like Texas had with Durant. Can they make hay while the sun shines? Or will stellar individual talent eclipse the team concept? That’s for next year. For this year, the Trojans are in the Sweet Sixteen, and Tim Floyd is a winner again.
(note: Can’t get enough Tim Floyd? The Feed delved into Timmay’s world this morning, too.)