CYPHEUS BUNTON said he did not consider leaving USC a year ago when basketball coach Darrin Horn reassigned him to make way for a new assistant coach.
As the director of player development, Bunton’s pay was cut to $65,000 from $120,000, and he could no longer go on the road to recruit, something he missed.
But he has known Horn since they played together at Western Kentucky in the mid-1990s, and Bunton worked as his assistant for six years before Orlando Early joined USC’s staff.
“That’s my best friend,” Bunton said. “I’m in it with him for the long haul. I’m a team guy. It wasn’t a big problem.”
On Thursday, the team announced Bunton was back as an assistant coach — nearly two months after Early left for N.C. State, which hired Mark Gottfried, his old coach at Alabama.
In seeking a replacement for Early, Horn said he was looking for someone who believed in what the program is working to accomplish.
“We wanted someone who’s invested in it,” Horn said. “Cypheus brings that to the table.”
Two former head coaches — Ben Betts of S.C. State and Benny Moss of UNC Wilmington — said this week that they had contacted the school about the opening but received no interest.
Among other things, Bunton spent last season working with the team’s six freshmen, who were under pressure to perform on one of the nation’s youngest teams.
Since he was able to spend more time on campus, Bunton started taking graduate classes in public health. But that is on hold as he returns to the grind of recruiting new Gamecocks.
Bunton rejoins Neill Berry and former USC player Mike Boynton on Horn’s staff as pressure mounts on the Gamecocks following two straight losing seasons.
But Bunton is prepared for the challenge. When USC lost four players soon after the last season’s 14-16 campaign, he said it was a test of faith.
“That little adversity is something God put in your way, and you have to believe there is a reason why,” Bunton said. “You have to trust Him.”
Justin Phelps was named USC’s director of basketball operations on Thursday. He founded The Justin Phelps All-American Junior College Showcase in Las Vegas. Phelps also worked with the Kent State basketball team, where he assisted with travel and summer camps.
Ex-USC coach Eddie Fogler has been hired to help Penn State replace Ed DeChellis, who left for Navy. Fogler, who lives in Elgin, has assisted at least 12 schools find coaches during the past five years. They include Georgia Tech, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas State and South Carolina, where he coached from 1993-2001.
USC graduate assistant Trey Brown has become an assistant coach on Scott Cherry’s staff at High Point. Cherry was an assistant at USC and Western Kentucky under Horn.
Work it out
USC forward Sam Muldrow reportedly has workouts scheduled with the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks. Experts, however, don’t have the school’s all-time leading shot blocker being selected in next month’s NBA draft.
The NCAA rules panel has approved adding a restricted-area arc three feet from the basket next season where defenders cannot take a charge. The NBA has used similar arc for several years to curb collisions under the basket.