Last Friday, USC basketball coach Darrin Horn said the week was the most challenging of his coaching career. But the past week has not been easy, either.
Fans and analysts have questioned the stability of the program after three players left the team and a fourth chose to try football.
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I’ll try to answer some of questions I have heard on the radio, read on the Web and received in my inbox:
Why does Horn still have a job?
Some folks have pointed to his buyout, which would cost the school more than $3 million. But the reality is that he has the backing of USC athletics director Eric Hyman and key members of the Board of Trustees, who believe he needs more than three seasons to prove himself and repair the program.
“Coach Horn is doing an excellent job and will overcome these setbacks,” said William Hubbard, who heads the board’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee. “There was a confluence of isolated incidents that look like big problems. These were all different things.”
What’s behind this mass exodus?
Despite all the theories and rumors, it may be nothing.
Horn told Stephen Spinella and Ramon Galloway about their limited roles next season, and he could not have been surprised the pair chose to transfer.
Bruce Ellington has long yearned to return to football, something he acknowledged during the basketball season.
Murphy Holloway said he always wanted to go back to Mississippi, which took a chance on him out of Dutch Fork High. He said USC’s roster changes played no role in his decision.
What’s the real deal with Holloway?
It seems odd that Holloway would want to go back to the school that refused to release him to South Carolina. Because of that, the 6-foot-7 Irmo native had to pay his own way to attend USC while sitting out this year. Holloway said he understands Mississippi’s decision because the Rebels wouldn’t want to face him.
A bigger question appears to be whether Holloway will need to sit out another season because he practiced with USC. That would likely cost him a year of eligibility. This question mark could open the door to Holloway returning to South Carolina, where he would be the starting power forward.
Why did Galloway go?
Horn seemed ready to sever ties with the 6-foot-2 guard from Philadelphia. He mentioned the poor shooting and decision making. He even downplayed how much his 10.7 points a game helped a 14-win team.
My hunch is that there are other differences with Horn that helped end his USC career after two years. Still, I agree with some fans who wonder how a young team can let a veteran leave.
Will USC basketball win any time soon?
I don’t know, but next year will be rough. The starting lineup could include two freshmen, two sophomores and the team’s only senior. USC will face Ohio State and Clemson and likely will meet North Carolina. The SEC East remains a challenge and the West should improve.
The keys next season will be how much center Damontre Harris improves, how well Damien Leonard and Anthony Gill adjust to the college game and how well point guard Eric Smith can score until Ellington comes back from playing football.
And South Carolina will have perhaps as many as three recruiting spots to fill after next season. A good class could help further restore hope lost in Horn’s worst week.