College Basketball Nation: Mike Garrett

USC opens practice with warning to agents

October, 15, 2010
USC made headlines last season for its self-imposed ban on postseason play and and its dissociating itself with O.J. Mayo. The NCAA eventually detailed how the former star guard received improper benefits both before and during his one year as a Trojan.

In a show of vigilance and an attempt to create an atmosphere of compliance, USC fired off multiple warning shots against would-be agents beginning with Friday's practice.

The program will close practices to the public for the next four years due to NCAA penalties, and just to make sure agents knew about it, the Trojans threw in this as part of the announcement:
Under NO circumstances will the following individuals be permitted access to practice facilities: agents (such as sports agents, marketing agents or financial advisors to athletes) or their employees, representatives or affiliates (including "runners").

Coach Kevin O'Neill told boosters in June, "You cannot control people from the outside. You cannot control agents. You cannot control runners." But new athletic director Pat Haden, who replaces Mike Garrett, is going to at least try to distance his program from them.

Already, Haden has been outspoken about it. He called agents, "idiots, sleazeballs" in an interview with the Orange County Register and according to gave this ominous quote about agents at a booster dinner earlier this week:
"It's a disgusting problem. From what I'm finding out, it’s even worse with basketball."

Kevin O'Neill's new boss offers support

August, 4, 2010
OK, so anecdotal evidence suggests that Mike Garrett was no basketball expert.

And for of all his success as USC athletic director, like the construction of the Galen Center, there were big mistakes, like the handling of the O.J. Mayo recruitment and the decision to hire Rick Majerus.

But Kevin O'Neill, who Garrett hired in one of his final major decisions for USC, has worked out nicely so far and already gotten a show of support from Garrett's successor.

Pat Haden officially replaced Garrett on Tuesday as athletic director, and he wrote a letter to the Trojan family on Day 1 of the new era that mentioned the "continued improvement of our basketball program."

Continued improvement means that there currently is improvement, right? The Trojans in O'Neill's first season went 16-14, and anyone who watched them saw a good amount of spirited play from the team despite it getting word midseason that self-imposed sanctions would cost them any dreams of postseason play.

That spoke volumes about O'Neill's ability to weather the storm and will serve him well going forward as the program faces NCAA probation and recruiting restrictions.

And getting off on the right foot with Haden sure doesn't hurt.
Last week, Diamond Leung told you about USC's new O.J. Mayo policy. That policy, in essence, is: "Who?" The school plans to whitewash all traces of the Mayo era from its collective consciousness, closing the book on the school's loosey-goosey relationship with its illicit one-and-done star.

According to FanHouse's Ray Holloman, that policy isn't enough. Because in light of USC basketball's behavior, he thinks the hoops program got off light.

At first glance, Holloman's right: USC hoops suffered far less than USC football, which is locked out of postseason play for two years. Meanwhile, though the hoops team forfeited a couple of scholarships, it can participate in this year's NCAA tournament. Given the nature of Tim Floyd's tenure and the Mayo era, which featured the untold financial gifts of Mayo runner Rodney Guillory, the punishment seems decidedly not harsh.

But USC basketball is a unique story. The Trojans sacrificed their hoops program last year in an attempt to save the football team. USC was off to a surprisingly hot start in 2009-10, and could have conceivably made the NCAA tournament had the team not been devastated by its own postseason ban. What the hoops postseason ban did, rather than cause the NCAA to ease up on the Trojans' football cash cow, is convince the NCAA to ease up on the basketball team. USC's athletics program inadvertently saved the hoops team. It didn't mean to, but it did.

Which is why USC basketball, though troubled in the short term, got off comparably light. The Trojans accidentally provided a blueprint for how to save a program -- by inadvertently showing the NCAA it was serious about cleaning up its basketball house. It didn't save the football team, but, in a weird way, it worked.

That's why USC basketball seems as though it got off easy. It did. But considering its own self-sanctions and the example the NCAA is trying to set, it deserved to.

Tim Floyd says he'll 'take the high road'

July, 22, 2010
When UTEP coach Tim Floyd last spoke extensively about his dealings with O.J. Mayo and athletic director Mike Garrett, Floyd said working under Garrett in the midst of scandal was so difficult for him that he had to resign.

He felt unsupported by his own boss even though he was "proud" of how USC conducted business regarding the recruitment of Mayo and would "absolutely" recruit Mayo again even though the episode ultimately led to the school's self-imposed sanctions.

When Garrett was replaced earlier this week by incoming president Max Nikias, Floyd told the Los Angeles Times that he'll "take the high road."
"I loved my experience at USC -- the facilities and the players -- and I wish Pat Haden nothing but the best.

"I know from my latest experience at UTEP how important it is to be supported by the athletic department. I value that and hope Pat Haden does that with his coaches and players at USC, it's a great place with a storied history. SC has some of the greatest athletes in this country, and they'll continue to get them regardless of who's sitting in that [athletic director's] seat."

Floyd said his bitter parting with Garrett "is past history. That's gone. It's over. I would hope the university the best. I wish him [Garrett] the best."

Also history is the idea that Mayo should be remembered for his one year at USC, as the school is disassociating itself by removing all images of him on campus.

And according to The Times, the men's basketball media guide will also be marked up with asterisks during the period of time when Mayo played for Floyd.

While Floyd wants to leave the past in the past and close the book on the Mayo chapter, so too does USC.

USC to rid traces of O.J. Mayo

July, 20, 2010
See this image of O.J. Mayo conducting a radio interview inside USC's Heritage Hall? It's unlikely Mayo sets foot ever again inside the same building, let alone wear such a smile while doing it.

That's because USC incoming president Max Nikias announced Tuesday that by the time he takes office next month, the school will be rid of any physical reminders of Mayo and his one-and-done stay during which he was discovered to have broken NCAA rules.

"I have instructed the senior vice president for administration to remove athletic jerseys and murals displayed in recognition of O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush by mid-August -- before the incoming class of students moves on campus -- from Heritage Hall, the Galen Center and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum," Nikias said in a statement.

Ouch. Then again, consider the situation.

USC self-imposed a postseason ban on this year's team because of Mayo's recruitment, and the NCAA last month determined that he received extra benefits that he previously denied getting. His coach, Tim Floyd, is long gone after resigning. The athletic director, Mike Garrett, was pushed into retirement Tuesday.

Mayo led the Trojans to victories during the 2008 season, that have since been vacated, and an NCAA tournament appearance that ended with a first-round loss.

The school's new administration is now declaring that not only wasn't the Mayo era worth it, but also that it's not even worth remembering.

Kevin O'Neill shows his sense of humor

June, 17, 2010
In case you missed it last week, USC athletic director Mike Garrett didn't look very good at a booster event when he called the NCAA sanctions "nothing but a lot of envy."

Coach Kevin O'Neill also spoke at the event and showed off his personality in a more positive way, according to television reporter Lindsay Soto, who moderated the discussion on stage.
O’Neill is surprisingly funny. (I can’t tell you how many Trojan fans told me, after events, that the hoops coach had won them over with his relatively candid, seemingly genuine, and genuinely humorous remarks. He’s so intense on the sideline. They weren’t expecting his dry sense of humor.)

Going back in my tape recorder, O'Neill indeed was able to produce some laughs that evening. He made the rounds. He needled Lane Kiffin about Tennessee.

When the issue of discipline was raised, the notoriously in-your-face coach had this to say:

"I just hug 'em and kiss 'em," O'Neill joked. "You can show up whatever time you want ... have a Bon Bon, whatever you want to do."

Forward Nikola Vucevic also made O'Neill's comedy routine.

"He has a chance to play in the NBA, but I also keep reminding him he is the most improved player in the Pac-10, which means you were bad," O'Neill said.

O'Neill can mellow out in front of the program's boosters, but implicit in his message is also that his players still shouldn't expect to be coddled going forward.

Hey, but it was hilarious to imagine, wasn't it?

Mike Garrett: 'Nothing but a lot of envy'

June, 11, 2010
BURLINGAME, Calif. -- Hundreds of miles away from Heritage Hall and only a few hours after the release of an NCAA report that spelled out major penalties for USC, athletic director Mike Garrett broke his silence on the matter by telling a group of the school’s sports boosters that the report was “nothing but a lot of envy.”

“As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was … I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans,” Garrett said to cheers Thursday night at the San Francisco Airport Marriott.

Garrett made the statement on a previously scheduled coaches' tour stop for football coach Lane Kiffin and men’s basketball coach Kevin O’Neill, whose programs faced sanctions. Football took the brunt of the hit in the report with a two-year bowl ban among other penalties due to improper benefits received by Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. USC will appeal.

Declaring that “we can still split a national championship if we win all our games,” Kiffin also indicated he was heartened to learn 56 of his players appeared this morning for a voluntary 7 a.m. workout.

“Regardless of what happens in that appeal, we know this: SC is more powerful than anything else,” Kiffin said. “The university, the football program, the basketball program -- no matter what they try to do to us, it won’t matter.”

Before dining on seared fillet mignon and chocolate mousse cake, Garrett was greeted warmly with hugs and handshakes by USC fans who each paid at least $75 for event admission.

Wearing a striped cardinal-and-gold-colored tie -- and a smile -- Garrett had this to say when I approached him before the start of the event: “No comment. Don’t bother me. The world is great.”

While walking away with associates, he said, “Don’t talk to that guy. He’s the press.”

Later, when asked why he had not spoken publicly about the NCAA report or even issued a video statement, Garrett acted like he did not hear the question. He patted me on the chest and said, “God bless you.”

When a newspaper reporter asked if he were worried about his job,” Garrett patted that writer on the chest as well and said, “I’m just worried about your job.”

The crowd gave Garrett a standing ovation and also applauded and cheered when he mentioned the school would appeal the NCAA ruling.

“We’re fighters,” Garrett said. “As I told my staff, I said, ‘You know, I feel invigorated by all this stuff.’”

O’Neill, whose team faced few additional sanctions because the school had already self-imposed a postseason ban for this past season, said it was “a great decision by Mike” to go ahead with those sanctions in January.

O’Neill was not present at the school while star one-and-done player O.J. Mayo was being recruited, but he did address difficulty in maintaining institutional control.

“We can’t control people 24 hours a day,” O’Neill said. “That’s all there is to it. You cannot control people from the outside. You cannot control agents. You cannot control runners. Those kinds of things get away from you sometimes because you have no way of knowing. I do know this: We do the right thing every single day by the university, by the athletic department, by the student-athletes.”

Kiffin, playing to the crowd, compared the idea of institutional control to raising children.

“Imagine if you have 120 of them to control,” he said. “And imagine if you also have responsibility for every parent and every family member they have. It’s a pretty difficult situation.”

Revisiting the words of O.J. Mayo

June, 3, 2010
With the NCAA infractions committee set to release its report on USC, I thought it would be interesting to revisit this Dan Patrick interview with O.J. Mayo. It might be the most direct line of questioning Mayo has faced on the issue.

The interview provides hints to what might have prompted USC to impose sanctions on the program over Mayo's relationship with Rodney Guillory, who the school called a booster under NCAA rules.

Mayo said he never received payments before, during or after his career at USC. When Patrick asks if it was possible Mayo had a representative taking money that was supposed to go to him, the former USC guard responded:

"Probably so. I don't know what happened. More than likely, that’s possibly what could have happened."

Yahoo! Sports reported that coach Tim Floyd made a direct payment to Guillory, but Mayo is clear in denying that he was paid to play at USC.

"No, sir. I almost want to say I wish he (Floyd) did, but no sir. I was staying in Troy Hall (undergraduate housing) and riding a bicycle. It's a big mess. Probably more than anything, I think I had the wrong type of people around me. Maybe they had some things going on."

Why then, Mayo was asked, is Tim Floyd no longer coaching at USC?

"I'm hoping it wasn’t over $1,000 ... It was a lot going on that I didn't know about and was out of my hands. I don't know. I guess you can call Mike Garrett and ask him."

Of course, it's the NCAA that will have its say very shortly.

Floyd says he'd recruit Mayo again

March, 31, 2010
New UTEP coach Tim Floyd spoke to SIRIUS XM's Gary Williams today and launched into an impassioned defense of the recruitment of O.J. Mayo, which led to USC self-imposing sanctions this season and also the school having to face the NCAA infractions committee last month.

Floyd, despite continuing his criticism of former boss Mike Garrett, said he was "proud" of the job that USC did in researching Mayo before he starred for the Trojans and the school discovered that NCAA rules had been broken.
"Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely," said Floyd, who has been accused of making a direct cash payment to a Mayo associate. "Because O.J. is a very good person. He's a very good player. And there is an underground economy in our sport. And I'm not saying anything about the case. Nothing about the case. But if anybody thinks that O.J. Mayo, with his talents, was bought for $1,000, you're out of your damn mind. It’s just absolutely preposterous. And my name being associated with the recruitment of O.J. Mayo ... It makes no sense."

Floyd said that the "best vetting process in the world" is through the media and that he intentionally floated to the media the name Rodney Guillory in order to try to find out if the Mayo associate was a runner or an agent. Floyd said nothing of the sort ever came back to him in the time before Mayo arrived on campus. According to NCAA rules, Guillory was ultimately ruled a USC booster.
"Let me tell you something," Floyd said. "If you think that I made the decision for O.J. Mayo to come on his own, you would be wrong. This was five months after Reggie Bush, OK? Everybody was on high alert, and I'm really proud of how USC conducted their business.

"Were we suspicious? Everybody, everybody in college basketball is suspicious of everybody," Floyd said. "That's just the way it is. You have to be. But he [Mayo] was vetted by the NCAA as well. The same man doing the investigation of SC is the same man who vetted him through the amateurism committee and talked to him and Rodney Guillory for three hours. They cleared him to play."

Floyd said he hadn't commented much on the case until now because he didn't want to scare off potential employers for his next coaching job. He also continued to criticize Garrett, USC's athletic director, for his lack of support after accusations were made against him.
"I do feel like it was the most difficult thing I've ever had to go through," Floyd said. "But I made a decision to leave USC because I was branded by my athletic director, and I was just uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable, and if you've ever had a boss you didn't want to work for, if you want to stay there and work for him, that's your choice. At this point in my life, I did not have to. And I'm really extremely proud of the job that I did there and at other universities. And the fact that I've never, ever been accused of anything.

"There was a degree of misrepresentation and misportraying and just throwing things out there and hoping I would react, and it would stick. ... I fought it where I needed to fight it. And I'm going to come out on the good end of this."

Mike Garrett doesn't want to be on selection committee

March, 25, 2010
Not that we're aware anyone was asking or that his team would have been in the discussion this year, but USC athletic director Mike Garrett blogged that he wants no part of the NCAA selection committee.
Many athletic directors sit on the tournament selection committees, but it's something I have never done, nor will ever do in the future. I'm here to win and be involved in the lives of our student-athletes, and for someone with tunnel vision like me, it's not best for our program if I sit on committees that consume such time and take me away from my No. 1 job. I'm into helping and educating our student-athletes -- not being a cog in a bureaucracy.

That bureaucracy, of course, recently sent its infractions committee to question Garrett and others in his department regarding alleged violations -- including those related to O.J. Mayo that led USC to self-impose sanctions and ban itself from the postseason.

Garrett also insisted that none of the players or members of his department would be participating in NCAA tournament pools.
Gambling is gambling. There have been several notable examples of college athletic department employees who have broken this rule, and we're fortunate we have those examples to teach us all that the only way to do it is the right way. So our athletes and staff must act like Trojans and do the right thing, because it's not worth jeopardizing eligibility or damaging reputations over a few dollars in a tournament bracket.

USC set to face the NCAA

February, 17, 2010
USC faces the NCAA Infractions Committee this week in Tempe, Ariz., where athletic director Mike Garrett and former coach Tim Floyd are among those expected to defend themselves.

The Los Angeles Times has a look at what USC could be in for as the NCAA sifts through the O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush allegations. According to Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson, who went before the NCAA regarding Derrick Rose:
The hearing "is not 'Law and Order,'" Memphis' Johnson said. "You don't jump up and down at each other. You get your chance to say, 'That's not true,' but you don't ever want to interrupt them while they're talking."

In other words, that vision you have of Jack McCoy grilling someone about Rose's knowledge of equilateral triangles? Doesn't work like that.

StubHub has a cruel sense of humor

February, 10, 2010
USC barred itself from the postseason for violations related to O.J. Mayo. It stinks that the current team won't be able to dance, and Trojan fans can't be a great mood about it.

StubHub apparently didn't get the Mike Garrett memo and video about all this. Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News uncovered this beauty:
"Who says madness has to wait for March?

"Only a handful of home games remain, none bigger than when UCLA heads to the Galen Center. Then it's on to the Pac-10 Tournament, where your Trojans, will battle for a Conference crown. So don't miss a minute of the action! Go to StubHub today, choose your seats, and be there when your school takes on their biggest rivals.''

Really, StubHub? The company also sent out e-mails last year to fans of baseball teams out of the pennant race encouraging them to buy tickets as their crummy teams "chase baseball immortality."

StubHub cited a glitch and then e-mailed out apologies for that incident. USC knows all about how that works, of course.
Have something you want linked? Got a new hoops blog you think we should see? Follow me on Twitter and hit me up with your stuff. Now, as always, the links:
  • Education secretary Arne Duncan, whose first name always looks weird to me when I type it -- not that I type "Arne Duncan" all that often, but still -- is hitting college basketball where it hurts: Graduation rates. This might be worthy of a longer discussion later, but Duncan's idea is to tie graduation rates to NCAA tournament admission; if you're not graduating players, you can't play in the postseason: "You had four teams that didn't graduate any African-American players. Zero. If that was my son, I don't know if I would want him playing there," Duncan said. "And why did we allow them to play in this tournament, make all this money, be on national TV, and they're not graduating any kids?" Oooh, I know! (Furiously raises hand.) Because no one actually thinks college basketball is an academic enterprise? That only the most naive college basketball viewers argue that college basketball is great because they're watching student-athletes? That, for better or worse (definitely worse), no one really cares? Is that why?
  • I have no idea who to believe in this mess, because no one -- neither Mike Garrett nor Tim Floyd -- seems particularly trustworthy.
  • Speaking of USC, women's coach Michael Cooper (yes, the Showtime Lakers Michael Cooper) issued an apology for opening a news conference with, "My opening statement is [expletive] UCLA." Hilarious! Also kind of mean, and definitely the sort of thing you have to apologize for if you plan on being a head coach at any program for very long. But still, Michael Cooper, well done. Big round of applause. You, sir, are 90 percent onions.
  • Saturday's Cornell-Columbia game at Columbia's Levien Gymnasium is sold out. Yes, a sold out Ivy League basketball game at CUNY. What? It's not like there's anything better to do in New York.
  • UCLA still believes it can improve. This is where a smart aleck like me says that at 7-10, there's no way UCLA can get worse, and so promising improvement is a little like me promising that I'll get better at blogging today: When you're this bad, there's nowhere to go but up.
  • Royce White returns! After retiring from basketball, the Minnesota forward has returned to Tubby Smith's squad at long last. White's legal issues still need to be resolved -- White plead guilty to disorderly conduct and theft for his role in a mall altercation last year, and he's still a focus of an investigation involving a stolen laptop -- but if Smith allows him, White could return to the floor soon.
  • New Orleans quit the Sun Belt, which brings the school one step closer to settling in at the Division III level. When asked for comment, one New Orleans fan screamed "Uh, OK? GO SAINNNNNTSSSSSAHHH!"
  • I like college basketball. I like ridiculous haircuts. You can find me wherever the 'twain shall meet.
  • Casual Hoya breaks down and aggregates Georgetown's huge win over Pitt last night.
  • From the ESPN file, check out Dana O'Neil's excellent look at the surprising Binghamton Bearcats, who suffered one of the worst offseasons of all-time and are somehow not only not winless, but downright competitive. Keep in mind this is a team that had to have open tryouts on campus to fill the 2009-10 squad. It's shocking, really. And speaking of Dana, IU blog Inside The Hall sat her down for a Q & A on her gig, the Hoosiers, and her current All-American picks.
  • A Sea Of Blue takes a look at Kentucky's average margin of victory in 2009-10 and compares it to years' past. Despite the occasional Wildcat letdown and Kentucky's willingness to allow inferior teams to stick around -- think Georgia at Rupp Arena, for example -- the Cats' average margin of victory compares well with the more successful of former coach Rick Pitino's teams.
  • Finally, one quick note on this nonsense: Saying regular-season games don't matter is like saying any given week of the NFL doesn't matter. By itself, no. It's just one-sixteenth, or in college basketball's case, one-thirty-second of a season. The marginal value is low. But the games matter in the aggregate. Which team wins the NCAA title has as much to do with seeding and chance as talent, and every game on the way to the tournament has tiny little reverberations and consequences for March's massive payoff. You know, just like any other sport. Decrying college basketball's regular season as nothing but entertaining TV filler seems more than a little off-base.