Hours before USC faces Arizona in the Pac-10 semifinals on Friday night, USC coach Kevin O'Neill expressed regret for his part in a verbal altercation with a Wildcats booster the previous night.
"I apologize to the university," O'Neill told Jason King of Yahoo! Sports. "The last thing I'd ever want to do is cause anyone any embarrassment. I'm confident our team won't let this become a distraction."
O'Neill acknowledged that a security guard had to escort he and his wife out of a Los Angeles hotel on Thursday night after they argued with an Arizona donor the couple knew from O'Neill's tenure in Tuscon. The Arizona supporter is a longtime friend of Lute Olson, which is noteworthy because of the rift between O'Neill and the legendary Wildcats coach.
O'Neill had been told before a year-long stint as interim coach that Arizona would name him head coach afterward, but the Wildcats instead let him go following the 2007-08 season and made preparations for Olson's return.
The alleged altercation provides an intriguing backdrop for what already would have been an emotionally charged Pac-10 semifinal Friday night between fourth-seeded USC and top-seeded Arizona. The Trojans likely need a victory to maintain hope of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, while the Wildcats are seeking revenge for 65-57 loss to USC on Feb. 24 in Los Angeles.
USC athletic director Pat Haden released a statement Thursday night once reports of an incident involving O'Neill first surfaced.
"We have received some information tonight about an incident involving coach Kevin O'Neill, his wife and a fan from another school that occurred following our men's basketball game today," Haden said. "We are looking into this and gathering facts. We will determine what appropriate action is necessary."