USC To Take On San Diego In San Diego Slam Tournament

Dec. 10, 2004

Los Angeles -

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The USC men's basketball team--now 2-3 and under the direction of interim head coach Jim Saia--looks to pick up its first road win of the season as it travels two hours south of Los Angeles to take on the University of San Diego Toreros (3-4) in the San Diego Slam Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 5 p.m. It'll be USC's first road game since Henry Bibby was released from his duties as head coach on Dec. 6. The Trojans are deep, with six seniors on the roster--including leading scorer Rory O'Neil--and an incoming recruiting class--led by guard Gabe Pruitt--that is ranked in the top 10 by some recruiting experts.

GAME #6 -- USC vs. San Diego (3-4) at the San Diego State's Cox Arena on Saturday (Dec. 11) at 5 p.m. (PT). It will be telecast live by Channel 4 in San Diego and broadcast live on KMPC-AM 1540 in Los Angeles, KSPA 1510 in Ontario/Orange County and XEMM 800 in San Diego. Brad Holland is in his 11th year at the held of Torero basketball. His team is led by senior center Brice Vounang (17 ppg, 7.6 rpg), senior forward Brandon Gay (13.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and senior guard Brett Melton (10.9 ppg). The Toreros are coming off a 74-60 win at San Jose State.

NEW COACH Jim Saia -- The Trojan basketball program moved into a new direction on Monday (Dec. 6) as assistant coach Jim Saia was elevated to the position of interim head coach following the dismissal of 9th-year head man Henry Bibby. While Bibby's teams made the NCAA Elite Eight in 2001 and the NCAA tournament two other times, the last two seasons saw his squads go a combined 28-34. Saia, 40, served seven years as the top assistant coach at UCLA (1997-2003) and was involved in five Sweet 16 appearances and an Elite Eight appearance during that time. A veteran of West Coast basketball, he also had coaching stints at Fresno State, Indiana State and California. He will be assisted by Eric Brown, Bob Cantu and Mike Johnson.

LAST GAME -- The Trojans fell to Fresno State, 71-68, in Jim Saia's head coaching debut. USC led by as many as 10 points midway through the first half and by 5 with four minutes to play, but couldn't hang on. A 3-pointer by FSU's Ja'Vance Coleman with 42 seconds left gave the Bulldogs a 69-66 lead. That lead was finalized at 71-68 when Gabe Pruitt's desperation 3-point attempt failed at the buzzer. The Trojans shot just 38.4% from the field, but did manage to out-rebound the Bulldogs, 41-30 (including a 22-9 advantage on the offensive boards). Rory O'Neil led USC with 15 points, while Errick Craven added 14.

UP NEXT FOR THE TROJANS -- The Trojans will host Western Michigan at the Sports Arena on Dec. 18 before going to Hawaii to compete in the Rainbow Classic from Dec. 21-23.

COACHES IN FIRST GAMES -- With USC's loss to Fresno St. this week, that means that five of the last six Trojan head coaches--Henry Bibby, Charlie Parker , George Raveling, Bob Boyd and Jim Saia--lost their debuts at USC. The lone win came courtesy of Stan Morrison in 1980.

COACHES IN FIRST ROAD GAMES -- The last USC coach to win his first road game as Trojan head man was Stan Morrison, who beat Seattle, 67-65 (OT), in 1980.

RORY ON A TEAR -- In the last three games, senior center Rory O'Neil is averaging 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 24 of 48 from the field (50%) and 5 of 11 from 3-point-range (.454%). Half of his 26 rebounds in that time have been of the offensive variety.

GABE MAKES HIS MARK -- A check of the records indicates that when Gabe Pruitt co-led the Trojans in scoring against UC Irvine with 13 points, it was the first time since the advent of freshmen eligibility that a freshman had led the Trojans in scoring in a season opener. But Pruitt wasn't just a one-game wonder. He currently leads the team in FG% (.600), 3-point FG% (.444), FT% (a perfect 5-for-5), assists (16) and steals (12). He is also second on the squad in scoring at 11.0 points per game. His best game was a 16 point, 6 assist effort against BYU.

SLOW STARTS-- USC had been getting off to some slow starts so far this season. The Trojans have been behind at the half in four of the five games played, with an average deficit of 7 points (38-31). The lone USC lead at halftime came against BYU, when Troy led, 44-30.

SURGING STEALS -- USC led the Pac-10 in steals last year with an average of 8.89 steals per game. They are leading it again this year with an average of 11.80 per game. That's on pace to set the school record, and would be the second-best steals average in Pac-10 history (the record is 12.04 per game by ASU in 1992-93).

3-POINT ATTACK -- Coming into this week, the Trojans led the Pac-10 with an average of 9.25 three point baskets per game. If USC keeps up that pace, it will break the school record of 8.63 3-pointers per game set in 1993.

SENIORITIS -- The Trojans are blessed with six seniors--guards Errick and Derrick Craven, and forwards Rory O'Neil, Jeff McMillan, Nick Curtis and Greg Guenther--the most of any team in the Pac-10. Between the six of them, they have played 10,163 minutes, scored 3,588 points, snagged 1,992 rebounds and dished out 623 assists in their careers.

GROOVY NEWBIES -- It didn't take long for USC's recruiting class--ranked as high as seventh nationally by one publication--to make an impact in 2004-2005. In Troy's first game against UC Irvine, the four Trojan newcomers (guards Gabe Pruitt and Dwayne Shackleford and forwards Nick Young and Emanuel Willis) combined for 29 points, 5 assists and 6 steals in 52 total minutes played. Pruitt and Shackleford alone accounted for 25 of those points on 10 of 14 shooting (71%). While the going was much rougher against North Carolina and La Salle, the group still combined for 18 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 steals against the Tar Heels and 24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals against the Explorers. The quartet got back on track against BYU, as it accumulated 29 points, 11 assists and 5 steals against the Cougars (Pruitt and Young accounted for 26 of those points). Against FSU (with Shackleford out due to a sore knee) they scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 4 assists.

HOME BALANCING ACTS -- The Trojans had six players score in double figures in the season opening win at home against UCI. That was the first time that had happened since six Trojans hit double figures against Oregon in 2002 in Pac-10 tournament play. What's more, USC was just a hair away from seven players in double figures, as Rory O'Neil finished with nine points. The Trojans again scored five players in double figures against BYU.

SCARCITIES -- There's no doubt that the Trojans have a lot of depth this season, which has resulted in fewer minutes and shots to go around. In five games thus far, only four players--Rory O'Neil, Lodrick Stewart, Gabe Pruitt and Jeff McMillan--have logged more than 30 minutes in a game.

19,995's A CROWD -- That's the number of spectators who were in the stands to watch USC play North Carolina. It was the second-largest regular season crowd in Trojan history, with the crowd for the 1986 USC-Syracuse game being the largest (27,610).

McMILLAN OUT -- Senior forward Jeff McMillan--last year's Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year--is out for 4-6 weeks due to a broken left hand, which he injured in the Trojans' first possession against La Salle. Look for senior Gregg Guenther and freshman Emanuel Willis to fill in at the power forward spot.

USC PICKED TO FINISH SIXTH IN MEDIA POLL -- USC was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-10 media poll on Nov. 4. Arizona was picked first with 19 first-place votes and 253 points. Washington (seven first-place votes and 237 points) was second and Stanford was third (194 points). Oregon was fourth (167), followed by UCLA (156), USC (116), California (87), Oregon State (86), Washington State (73) and Arizona State (64).

PAST GLORY -- Fifty years ago this calendar year, the Trojans went to their last NCAA Final Four. The 1953-54 USC basketball team was coached by Forrest Twogood and was captained by forward Dick Welsh. The Trojans fell to Bradley, 74-72, in their semifinal game. Bradley went on to lose to La Salle (which beat USC earlier this season, coincidentally) in the NCAA title game.


Jim Saia, previously an assistant coach at UCLA and a veteran of West Coast basketball, was named the 2004-05 interim head coach of the USC men's basketball program on Dec. 4, 2004, following the dismissal of Henry Bibby.

Saia, 40, came to USC after seven years (1997-2003) as an assistant coach at UCLA, where he helped the Bruins advance to an Elite Eight (1997) and make five Sweet 16 appearances (1998-2002). UCLA won more than 20 games in each of his first six years there.

He was the offensive coordinator from 2000-2002, helping direct one of most potent offenses in the Pac-10. UCLA led the conference in field goal percentage (48.0%) in 2000 and was second in there-point percentage (37.1%). In 2001, the Bruins were second in three-point percentage (35.5%) and third in scoring (79.5). In 2002, UCLA was second in both field goal (47.2%) and three-point (39.0%) percentage.

In his three years as coordinator, UCLA posted its most prolific three-point totals ever, making a school record 223 in 2002, 205 in 2000 and 190 in 2001. The 2002 Bruin team also posted the second-highest single game field goal percentage mark in school history when it shot 72.9% against South Carolina.

Saia's Bruin coaching successes carried over into recruiting, where his talents assisted UCLA in landing the nation's No. 1 (2001, 1998) and No. 2 (1997) ranked recruiting classes. Saia coached 10 Bruins who went on to the NBA, including Baron Davis, Dan Gadzuric, Earl Watson, Jason Kapono and Jerome Moiso.

Before arriving at Westwood, Saia was the head coach at Columbia College, a junior college in Sonora, CA, from 1994-96. During his two-year head-coaching career at Columbia, he led the Claim Jumpers to a 61-10 overall record, two Central Valley Conference (CVC) championships and he earned two CVC Coach of the Year honors. In 1996, Columbia advanced to the Final Eight in state junior college play and ended the season ranked No. 3 with a 30-5 overall record. Saia's 1995 club was rated No. 7 in the state and finished with an overall record of 31-5.

His two-year conference mark was 25-3. Every sophomore on Saia's Columbia teams graduated or pursued their education at a four-year college. When Saia took over the Columbia program in 1994, the Claim Jumpers had no returning starters and he only had six weeks to recruit a team. His 1994-95 squad, picked for last place in the coaches' preseason poll, finished with a 31-5 overall record.

Prior to his head coaching stint at Columbia, Saia was an assistant coach at the Division I level at Fresno State (1990-94, earning a Master's degree), Indiana State (1989-90) and at California (1988-89). During his years at Fresno State, the Bulldogs in 1994 were 21-11 overall and advanced to the NIT and in 1991, FSU was runner-up in the Big West Tournament. While at Cal in 1989, the Golden Bears were 20-13 overall and also played in the NIT.

In 1994, Saia was head coach of the Athletes In Action USA team and in 1993 he coached AIA's Division I summer tour squad. A respected clinician, Saia was director of the Fresno State Camp from 1990-94 and has toured the country lecturing at clinics about individual offensive and defensive skills.

As a player, Saia's basketball career began at Sir Francis Drake High in San Anselmo, Calif. In 1981 and '82, Saia's junior and senior prep years, Sir Francis Drake was 65-1 overall and won two California state championships. From 1982-84, he played at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and helped lead the Mustangs to a 20-win season. Saia spent the 1984-85 college season at College of Marin in Kentfield, Calif, leading the Mariners to the state tournament and earning all-conference honors. He concluded his college career at Chapman University. From 1985-87 at Chapman, Saia earned Best Defensive Player and Coaches Awards.Born June 15, 1964 in San Francisco, Saia is single and resides in Marina Del Rey.


Official USC Press Release from dec. 6, 2004:USC head men's basketball coach Henry Bibby has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately, USC athletic director Mike Garrett announced today (Dec. 6).

'I understand that the timing of this is unorthodox, just four games into the season,' said Garrett. 'But I feel strongly that our men's basketball program needs to go in a different direction. And it was obvious to me that the change had to be made now.

'This was a difficult decision. Henry has done some wonderful things during his nine years at USC. He took us to three NCAA tournaments and even got us to the Elite Eight. But a change had to be made despite the unusual timing.

'We will begin an immediate search for a new coach. As an athletic director, I am always aware of prospective coaches in all sports who fit our profile. These people will be considered in our search.

'Assistant coach Jim Saia will serve as our interim head coach for the rest of the season. I am confident that he and the other assistants will do a great job.'

Bibby, who was in his ninth year as head coach at USC after spending a year as a Trojan assistant, had a 131-111 overall record. His 1997, 2001 and 2002 teams made it into the NCAA tournament, with the 2001 squad advancing to the Elite Eight, while his 1999 team was an NIT participant. However, the Trojans were under .500 the past two seasons, going 13-17 in 2003 and 13-15 last year.

The Trojans currently are 2-2 this season. They host Fresno State this Wednesday (Dec. 8) at the Sports Arena at 730 p.m.

Saia, 40, is in his first year at USC. He spent the previous seven seasons (1997-2003) as an assistant at UCLA. His other coaching stops included assistant jobs at California (1988-89), Indiana State (1989-90) and Fresno State (1990-94), and then two years as the head coach at Columbia Junior College (1995-96). In 1994, he was head coach of the Athletes In Action USA team.

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