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Horn denies talking to Xavier

South Carolina's head coach Darrin Horn looks on in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt beat South Carolina 96-83. (AP Photo/Mike Masotti)
South Carolina's head coach Darrin Horn looks on in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt beat South Carolina 96-83. (AP Photo/Mike Masotti)

USC men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn on Thursday night denied he has had discussions with Xavier about its vacancy, after several reports, including one by The State, linked him to the job.

"I don't get involved in rumor mills that are out there, however, contrary to published reports, I have not spoken to any other school nor am I looking to," Horn said in the statement. "I am proud of what we accomplished this season and am excited about the future of South Carolina basketball. I can't wait to get to workouts with our players tomorrow and continue recruiting this spring."

The statement contradicted multiple sources who said Horn was in Cincinnati on Thursday meeting with Xavier officials.

Horn was not at a scheduled team workout Thursday afternoon, according to sources, but was back at the team's practice facility later in the day. Attempts to reach Horn were unsuccessful.

Earlier in the week, USC athletics director Eric Hyman declined to say whether Xavier had called to request permission to talk to Horn.

Xavier athletics director Mike Bobinski declined to confirm candidates other than assistant coach Brian Mack, who interviewed Wednesday and is regarded as the favorite.

The Xavier job opened Monday when Sean Miller left for Arizona. Xavier was paying Miller in excess of $1 million.

Horn's contract at USC calls for him to earn $800,000 annually, plus incentives of up to $390,000. (Horn claimed a $10,000 bonus this year for winning at least 20 games.)

Horn would owe USC a $1.25 million buyout if he left this year, according to the terms of his contract.

Asked Tuesday about amending Horn's contract, Hyman said any discussions would be part of the normal season-ending evaluation process.

"Darrin's been fantastic to work with," Hyman said. "We're very open and candid with each other, and I think that's the way it'll continue."

The 36-year-old Horn turned around a Gamecocks team that was coming off consecutive losing seasons. USC finished 21-10, winning a share of the SEC East, but lost four of its last five, including a first-round game in the NIT.

USC is due to return a strong team, though that depends on the future of star Devan Downey. The junior point guard has entered his name in the NBA draft but has not hired an agent. If he comes back, the Gamecocks would return four starters, along with well-regarded recruit Lakeem Jackson.

There are several aspects of the Xavier position that could have been appealing to Horn:

  It's located an hour from his hometown of Lexington, Ky., where most of his family lives. Horn knows the region well, having coached at Western Kentucky for five seasons before coming to USC.

  Xavier, a member of the Atlantic 10 conference, has become a fixture on the national scene, playing in the NCAA tournament 19 times since 1983. The Musketeers were a No. 4 seed this season and reached the Sweet 16.  The next Xavier coach will inherit a team that some view as a Final Four contender.

  The past three Xavier coaches have moved on to big-time jobs: Preceding Miller’s departure, Thad Matta went to Ohio State in 2004, and the late Skip Prosser went to Wake Forest in 2001.

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