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USC fires basketball coach O'Neill

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USC fires basketball coach O'Neill

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kevin O'Neill took over a troubled Southern California basketball team, getting the Trojans back to the NCAA tournament after NCAA issues kept them out in his first season while producing winning records twice in 3 1/2 years. It wasn't enough.

He was fired on Monday, with the Trojans 7-10 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12 after splitting their road trip last weekend.

``We just didn't win enough last year and this year. That's what this business is,'' O'Neill told The Associated Press by phone. ``We tried to do as well as we could, tried to get the program to the highest level. My goal every day going in there was to try to win a national title.''

He had a 48-65 record at the school known primarily for its powerful football program after going 6-26 last year while setting a USC record for losses.

Athletic director Pat Haden said the program needed new leadership.

``Despite a nice road win in our last game, I felt it was best to make a change now, with most of the Pac-12 season still ahead of us, in order to re-energize our team,'' he said.

O'Neill was hired by Haden's predecessor, Mike Garrett, who said at the time, ``Hopefully he's here forever.'' O'Neill took the USC job after spending a season as an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies.

``Nothing in this business surprises me,'' O'Neill said, adding that he and Haden ``really didn't have any discussions other than how the team is doing.''

Veteran assistant Bob Cantu will serve as interim coach while USC searches for a successor. Cantu took over for O'Neill during a Pac-10 tournament semifinal game against Arizona in 2010-11 when the coach was suspended after getting into a verbal confrontation with a Wildcats booster. He has remained on the staff through four coaching changes and is the longest tenured assistant in the Pac-12.

``Couldn't be more excited and anxious to get started with (hashtag) coachbobcantu,'' tweeted senior center James Blaszyk.

The Trojans lost at Colorado before winning at Utah to snap a 14-game road skid over the weekend. USC has lost nine of its last 13 games, which included a five-game skid.

``There's been a lot of challenges in it but I really enjoyed my time,'' O'Neill told the AP. ``I'm thankful for my opportunity. I'm going to cheer for them every day.''

Upon arriving at USC in June 2009, O'Neill had to deal with the fallout from an ongoing NCAA investigation and school-imposed sanctions involving star O.J. Mayo, who played one season under Tim Floyd before leaving for the NBA.

The Trojans went 16-14, including a sweep of crosstown rival UCLA, and were in the hunt for the conference title until the final two weeks of the season. Sanctions imposed by the school in response to the NCAA investigation prohibited them from postseason play.

The next season, O'Neill lost three starters and four of his top six players from the rotation, but he guided the Trojans to a 19-15 record and an NCAA tournament berth. They lost in the first round to Virginia Commonwealth. That team included Nikola Vucevic, a first-round draft pick who now plays for the Orlando Magic.

Last season, the Trojans were hard-hit by injury, leaving O'Neill with just six scholarship players for nearly half the season who managed to keep the team in most every game. The biggest blow was losing point guard Jio Fontan, who tore his ACL after scoring 57 points in two exhibition games in Brazil. Forward Aaron Fuller (shoulder) and big man Dewayne Dedmon (torn MCL) also went down with season-ending injuries at different points.

``It got really pronounced because we didn't have freshmen or sophomores when I got here. Those classes were blank,'' said O'Neill, who dipped into the ranks of junior college players and transfers to fill out the roster. ``I thought our team was starting to come around and play better.''

He had a full complement of 13 scholarship players who were healthy this season.

``It was hard for me to evaluate him as a head coach until this year when he had enough players and veterans to compete,'' Haden said.

O'Neill said he's given no thought to his immediate future.

``Take a little time off, chill out a little bit,'' he said. ``I might go to New York and visit my dad. I really don't have any regrets, none at all.''

O'Neill, who turns 56 on Jan. 24, was hired by coach Lute Olson as an assistant at Arizona before the 2007-08 season, and became interim coach when Olson took a medical leave of absence.

O'Neill led the Wildcats to a 19-15 record and the school's 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, at the time the nation's longest active streak. He was designated Olson's permanent successor, but when the Hall of Famer returned that spring he announced O'Neill would no longer be part of the program.

O'Neill had previous head coaching jobs at Marquette, Tennessee and Northwestern. He has a 219-245 record in the college ranks.

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'It's like losing a brother': The human aspect of the NHL trade deadline

'It's like losing a brother': The human aspect of the NHL trade deadline

The NHL trade deadline is always a fun time for fans. It's a time for buyers to bring in the final key pieces of a Stanley Cup roster or maybe those one or two players needed to complete a run to the playoffs. For sellers, it is time to move players away and begin looking towards the future. It's a time when everyone with any interest in hockey pours over rosters, cap hits and stats trying to determine who could fit where like pieces on a chessboard.

The feeling is much different for the players.

"It's difficult," Nick Jensen said of the trade deadline. "It's a whirlwind. Everything's going on, you're kind of comfortable at the place you're at, you have a place where you played for a while and your family's there and all of a sudden, for me, I got traded and that night I was gone and I never really looked back."

To the players, the trade deadline is not just about shuffling names from roster to roster, this is real life. A player's life can change with one phone call and the news that he now has to pack his bags for a new city and get there in a matter of days, sometimes hours.

The uncertainty of the trade deadline affects every player of every team. Obviously there are those like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom who know they are not going to be traded, but that doesn't mean friends can't be traded for or away. Whether your team is in a rebuild or a Cup contender, there's a chance the roster could look very different by 3 p.m. on Monday for any team in the NHL.

"It can be a little distracting at times for the whole team in general if you're a team that you think was going to be making some moves, but it can also especially be distracting if you're a guy that's being talked about being traded," said Jensen who was traded to the Caps in 2019 as a deadline move.

Some players find themselves to be the unwilling trade chips of a deal as general managers try to tweak their rosters. The news of a trade, however, can sometimes be a welcome relief. That certainly has been the case for most deadline pickups for Washington in recent years.

From a competitive standpoint, typically the Caps have sought reinforcements from teams that know they will not be headed to the playoffs. Players come to Washington with the hope of competing for a Stanley Cup or perhaps of being able to find a better fit and a bigger role than the one they are leaving.

"I was in really bad situation [in Chicago]," said Michal Kempny, who was a trade deadline pickup for the Caps in 2018. "Every change was good for me. I just kind of waited what's going to happen and I got traded here."

"To come here and have some big-time meaningful games coming up, and be right in the thick of the race, it's a lot of fun," the newly acquired Brenden Dillon said.

But that's on the ice. The off-ice implications are a bit more complicated.

Off the ice, players have to think about their homes, their wives or girlfriends and their kids. Off the ice, players are faced with the realities of a world that is not built around the schedule of a professional athlete.

"My wife had just finally started living with me because she was in grad school before that so it was like oh finally we get to live together," Jensen said, "And then we lived together for like five months then I get traded and like oh here we go again. Dealing with when you get traded the stuff outside of hockey can be tough like that."

Initially, players do not have to worry about much in terms of housing. They are put up in a hotel and can adjust to their new surroundings. Then they are left to trying to adjust to their new team.

"It's kind of different.," Kempny said. "New city, new organization, new teammates. It's part of our job and those things happening every year to a lot of guys."

Adjusting to a new team can be especially difficult when it is one as tight as the Caps.

While players are certainly excited to join the organization, there also comes with it a level of intimidation of walking into the locker room.

"It feels like a tight-knit family in here, and there's a reason that they've had so much success not just this year but in years past," Dillon said. "I'm just trying to be a piece to the puzzle, come in and do what I can."

"I'm coming into a team where I got traded for a guy that was here that a lot of the guys were pretty fond of so that's kind of in the back of your mind too," Jensen said. "I know the guys really liked [Madison Bowey.] I heard he was a really great guy so I know losing guys at trades can be tough in that sense because you could grow as a family here and it's like losing a brother. Going in and trying to replace that can be tough too."

Adjusting to a new team, adjusting to a new system, adjusting to a new city and doing it while also trying to figure out where you're going to live and if and when your family may move with you is a lot for anyone to handle. The trade deadline comes with the added pressure of having to adjust quickly. A player who is traded in December still has over half the season left to play. It comes with all the same challenges, but there is more time for a player to get his game in order.

At the trade deadline, however, it's crunch time. There is only about a quarter of the season left to play and suddenly all the off-ice things that most people would refer to as "life" become a distraction from the task at hand, something in which the players have to shut out.

"The approach I always took is I always try to control the things that I could control and getting traded is out of my control," Jensen said. "I just focus on each game and take the same approach that you always take whether you're being traded or not being traded. If you focus on the stuff outside of your game, it's just a distraction, it's a waste of energy and it kind of puts a toll on you a little bit.

"It's not easy. It's not easy shutting things out like that, but that's kind of the approach you've got to take."

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Wizards vs. Bucks: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Bucks: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Wizards head back to the nation's capital Monday night for a matchup with Giannis Antetokoumpo and the Milwaukee Bucks at Capital One Arena.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with an astounding 53 points in the team's loss Sunday night to the Chicago Bulls. Beal passed Jeff Malone on the team's all-time scoring list for second place. He now only trails Elvin Hayes.

The Bucks are coming off a dominant 21-point win over the 76ers on Friday night and look to continue their stellar play in D.C. against the struggling Wizards.

Here is everything you need to know.

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

When: Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Bucks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Bucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. BULLS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Bucks

9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live

10:00 PM: Wizards Talk

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bradley Beal, Wizards (29.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.0 APG): Beal will look to carry the Wizards to victory against the Bucks after the team was unable to defeat the Bulls on Sunday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (30.0 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.8 APG): The Greek freak is on a fast-track to another MVP trophy and has the Bucks in a prime position to come out of the Eastern Conference.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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