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June 2, 2009

Trojans faced with rebuilding project

One of the most unfortunate aspects of Hurricane Mayo, the howling winds of allegations that have swept through Galen Center, is that damage has already been done.

And while Tim Floyd and the university have boarded up the windows, so to speak, plenty of other people are talking - and recruits appear to be listening.

The question is, can this thing be salvaged?

A massive turnover on the roster and a "cloud" lingering over the program has shifted the direction of the program from on the rise to one stuck in some sort of cruel purgatory.

Fair or not, those are the facts.

And for better or for worse, here are a few possible solutions.

Punt on 2009-10

The USC men's basketball is almost certainly headed for trouble next season, and the trouble will be magnified by what could have been. If Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson stayed in school, if USC had kept Noel Johnson and if the Trojans kept Lamont Jones, the team would've been primed for a top-15 preseason ranking. Add those guys with Alex Stepheson, and the team could've been special.

Now, that seems unlikely.

As it stands now, Hackett and Gibson are auditioning for NBA teams. Johnson's being granted his release from a letter of intent and rumors are that Jones will seek the same.

The turnover leaves a team built around Dwight Lewis and Stephenson. While those two can play, it won't be nearly enough. Instead of riding Lewis hard throughout the season, 09-10 should be about guys like Marcus Simmons, Leonard Washington and Nikola Vucevic.

There's still talent on the roster, but it's not the elite kind of talent that takes teams deep in the NCAA Tournament. USC's only chance for success in the future is to develop that talent.

Make the tough choice

It would be very difficult to part ways with a coach who you just extended, but that could be the decision Mike Garrett is faced with.

Some feel that firing Tim Floyd would be an admission of guilt in the O.J. Mayo investigation. That could be true, but at this point, it's hard to imagine that Floyd didn't do a single thing wrong handling the situation.

I don't feel firing Floyd at this point would be admitting anything other than USC realizes something needs to change at Galen.

It would be an admission that the effects of the allegations are too much for Floyd to overcome. The team cannot be hemorrhaging players and recruits the way it is now, and it's hard to imagine a tough season would do much to help stop that bleeding.

It's unfortunate and maybe unfair, but it's a business decision. Listening to the words coming out of recruits' camps, the Trojans need to distance themselves from Floyd if they want to be back in the mix for elite prep talent.

If USC were to avoid major NCAA sanctions, the Trojans could go one more year with an interim head coach with the hopes of landing Pitt's Jamie Dixon at the end on the 2010-11 season.

However, letting go of Floyd at this point would mean a large buyout and could prohibit SC from going after a big name coach.

The only real option

The best thing USC can do at this point is hope for the best. There is a scenario where some of the young Trojans step their game up and compliment the older players, maybe to the extent where USC puts itself in a position to get to the postseason.

If the NCAA doesn't find ample reason or cause to punish USC for the Mayo scandal, perhaps a winning season could help lift the cloud from over the Galen Center.

Unless some new evidence comes out, Floyd will keep his job for the upcoming season. He'll need the team to show improvement and life in order to make the program marketable again to recruits. He'll also have to make good decisions and show discipline on the recruiting trail.

While Hurricane Mayo may have messed some things up, it hasn't destroyed anything quite yet. Here's to hoping Floyd and the rest of the Trojans are up to rebuild.


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