USC men’s basketball all-time roster: Trojan Legends

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The history of USC basketball would have been very different if the Trojans’ best teams had been able to play in the NCAA Tournament. Yet, they weren’t.

Younger fans might have a hard time understanding that sentence, but it’s true: USC’s two greatest teams ever were not the 1940 and 1954 Final Four teams. The 1971 and 1974 teams merit that distinction. Yet, the NCAA Tournament had roughly two dozen teams back then, not the 68 we have today. USC would have been a No. 1 seed in 1971, and at least a No. 2 seed in 1974. Yet, only the champion of a conference went to the Big Dance back then. In the Pacific 8 Conference, that champion was — of course — John Wooden’s UCLA program. It locked out the best USC teams of all time.

The Trojans didn’t get the publicity or recognition they deserved back then … and they aren’t remembered in history the way they should be. If they had made the Final Four, the past 50 years of USC basketball might have been very different.

Some of the names on this list of all-time-great USC basketball players might be familiar. Many might not be. We wanted to make sure to honor both the best players on the 1971 team and the best players on USC’s other great teams throughout the years.

Enjoy this presentation of the all-time USC Trojans men’s basketball roster.

Sam Barry: Head Coach (1929-1941, 1945-1950)

Sam Barry, whose USC legacy we wrote about three years ago in a series of articles, is a legitimate giant in the history and development of basketball.

As the tweet above notes, Barry was the inventor of the triangle offense before passing it down to a USC player named Tex Winter, who coached for more than 60 years and is best known to younger basketball fans as Phil Jackson’s assistant coach for the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, who dominated the NBA in the 1990s.

Barry led USC to its first Final Four in 1940 … and the school’s first College World Series championship in 1948. He was also iconic football coach Howard Jones’ assistant on USC’s national championship teams of the 1930s. He isn’t just the top basketball coach in USC history; he is the most important person in the history of USC athletics as a whole.

Read The Sam Barry Chronicles at Trojans Wire. You’ll learn a ton.

Bob Boyd: Assistant Coach (USC coach from 1967-1979)

Bob Boyd wasn’t an assistant coach at USC, but he merits inclusion on the USC all-time staff because he is the best head coach the men’s basketball program has had since Sam Barry built the program.

Boyd coached USC’s greatest all-time team, the 1971 group which went 24-2 and whose only two losses were to John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty, which was in the middle of its incomparable run of seven straight national championships from 1967 through 1973. If Boyd coached in the mid-1980s or in later eras and produced the results he generated at USC in the 1970s, USC would have been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament at least once if not twice. The 1974 team was almost as good as the 1971 team.

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Catch our remembrances of Bob Boyd from our archives, and also our three-part series on the 1971 USC men’s basketball team.

Eric Mobley: Assistant Coach (2018-present)

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Dec 8, 2020; Los Angeles, California; Southern California Trojans assistant coach Eric Mobley (left) talks with forward Chevez Goodwin (1) in the first half against the UC Irvine Anteaters at Galen Center. USC defeated UCI 91-56. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The assistant coaches for Sam Barry and Bob Boyd made big contributions to USC basketball, and Mobley has just a five-year track record. Why elevate Mobley, who was hired by Andy Enfield in 2018?

Two reasons: One, he brought Evan Mobley to USC, paving the way for the Elite Eight run in 2021 and the improved profile of Trojan basketball. This prosperous period in school history can be very directly connected to Eric Mobley.

Second, Mobley played a central role in getting USC’s brilliant and capable athletic training staff to tend to Vince Iwuchukwu when he suffered a cardiac arrest last July. Mobley’s quick thinking helped Iwuchukwu survive.

Best USC men’s basketball assistant coach ever? It’s at least legitimate to submit Eric Mobley for consideration.

The other assistant coach who simply has to be named here is Jim Hefner, Bob Boyd’s trusted longtime assistant at USC. He was a big hitter on the recruiting trail, going up against the Wooden UCLA dynasty and winning his share of battles.

Evan Mobley: Starting Center (2020-2021)

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Dec 3, 2020; Uncasville, CT; USC Trojans forward Evan Mobley (4) defends against Connecticut Huskies forward Tyler Polley (12) in the second half at Mohegan Sun Arena.  David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Mobley played only one season at USC, but he made it count. He led the Trojans to the Elite Eight and dramatically improved the program’s overall standing and reputation. He is the Junior Seau of USC basketball: He didn’t have a long career, but it certainly was impactful and unforgettable.

Ron Riley: Starting Forward (1969-1972)

Riley averaged a double-double in three seasons at USC: 14.2 points and 13.7 rebounds. He was a double-figure rebounder in each of his three seasons with the Trojans. He was the low-post force in the paint who allowed guards Dennis Layton and Paul Westphal to be exponentially more effective on USC’s brilliant 1971 team.

He might be USC’s best rebounder ever. He definitely is USC’s most important rebounder ever, since he was the guy who did the dirty work on the Trojans’ best team of all time.

Alex Hannum: Starting Forward (1942-1943, 1946-1948)

Alex Hannum was First Team All-Pacific Coast Conference for USC in 1948 under coach Sam Barry. Hannum became a Hall of Fame head coach, winning two NBA championships, one with the St. Louis Hawks in 1958 and one with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967. Hannum coached in four NBA Finals and won the ABA championship in 1969 with the Oakland Oaks.

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He is one of several titanic USC basketball legends from the early days of the program, also from the era before the NCAA Tournament became a major national sporting event.

Yes, we wrote about Hannum here at Trojans Wire.

Harold Miner: Starting Guard (1989-1992)

Harold Miner

Harold Miner

Jan 30, 1991; Los Angeles, CA;  Southern California Trojans guard Harold Miner (23) in action against the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports

USC has several great guards, so which two make the starting five? Harold Miner has to be one of them for two central reasons. First, he was spectacular, averaging 26.3 points per game in his majestic 1992 season. Second, the elite scoring was not empty calories. Bad teams can have great scorers who don’t do anything on defense or add value to a team. Miner lifted USC to its highest NCAA Tournament seed ever, a No. 2 seed.

Elite performance led to elite results. It’s really hard to argue with that.

Bill Sharman: Starting Guard (1946-1950)

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April 6, 2012; Los Angeles, CA; Bill Sharman talks to a Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader as he is honored at halftime of a game against the Houston Rockets in honor of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 NBA championship team at Staples Center. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Sharman is the most successful basketball player who ever played at USC. It isn’t even close.

He was an All-American with the Trojans. Then he won four NBA titles as a player with Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics. He was an eight-time NBA All-Star and an All-Star Game MVP. No other former USC player can match that resume in the pros.

Sharman then went into coaching and won both NBA and ABA championships. He gave the Los Angeles Lakers their first NBA title as the head coach of the 1972 team. He then won more NBA titles as a Laker executive in the 1980s.

When you realize Sharman learned the game from Sam Barry, one can appreciate how towering Barry’s basketball legacy truly was and is.

Sam Clancy: Backup Forward (1998-2002)

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14 Feb 2001: Sam Clancy (50) of the Arizona State Sun Devils slams the ball during the game against the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils. Stephen Dunn /Allsport

Clancy was the leading scorer on USC’s 2001 Elite Eight team. USC has made the Elite Eight only twice since 1954. Clancy was the heartbeat of that team, though he had plenty of help. USC beat Kentucky and prevented a Kentucky-Duke Elite Eight in Philadelphia, nine years after the Wildcats and Blue Devils played their unforgettable 1992 regional final.

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Dennis Layton: Backup guard (1969-1971)

Dennis Layton was a higher scorer than Paul Westphal on two consecutive USC basketball teams, including the great 1971 team. How many people know that? I’m not sure … but I had to look that one up. That’s how good Dannis Layton is.

By the way: Aren’t we supposed to have a backup forward or center here? Well, we’re rolling with a four-guard bench because USC’s great all-time players are primarily loaded with guards.

Paul Westphal: Backup Guard (1969-1972)

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USC Trojans guard Paul Westphal in action against Houston Cougars. Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

He enjoyed a decorated career as an NBA player, and he forged a reputation as one of the smartest players on a basketball court, particularly in the epic Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals between the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics. Yet, before he became an NBA star, Westphal, Dennis Layton, and Ron Riley made the 1971 Trojans the best USC basketball team ever. They didn’t make the Final Four, but that’s because the NCAA Tournament had fewer than 26 teams back then. That USC team almost surely would have made the Final Four in a 64-team tournament.

After his playing career, Westphal coached Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games.

Gus Williams: Backup Guard (1972-1975)

Gus Williams became a 21-point-per-game scorer at USC in 1975. One year earlier, he was a star player for the 1974 USC team which rates just below the 1971 team as one of the great Trojan basketball teams ever.

Williams then won the NBA championship with the 1979 Seattle Supersonics and had a great run in the pros. Elite in college and the NBA, he has to be on the USC all-time roster.

Jordan McLaughlin: Backup Guard (2014-2018)

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Dec 30, 2016; Eugene, OR; USC Trojans forward Chimezie Metu (4) watches as USC Trojans guard Jordan McLaughlin (11) dribbles the ball in the first half at Matthew Knight Arena.  Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan McLaughlin is a very important and special player in USC basketball history. He rescued Andy Enfield by giving the Trojans the point guard they so desperately needed. He brought USC two NCAA Tournaments and enabled Enfield to find his footing, paving the way for this very successful era of Trojan hoops. USC has been looking for an elite floor general since McLaughlin left; Isaiah Collier could be that guy.

Before we conclude, we have to include one honorable mention selection: Dwight Anderson, a guard on the 1982 NCAA Tournament team who died in 2020. Anderson was a 20-point-per-game scorer on that 1982 team. He was a very special player who shouldn’t be excluded from this roster.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire

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