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Bob Cantu was named interim head coach on Jan. 14. He is in his 12th season with the USC men's basketball program, and his 17th overall at the collegiate level. He was promoted to associate head coach on April 8, 2010 by former head coach Kevin O'Neill. Cantu has remained on the USC staff through four coaching regimes and entered the season as the longest tenured assistant coach in the Pac-12. During Cantu's tenure, 11 players from USC have played or are currently playing in the NBA, including five first round draft picks from 2007-11, more than any Pac-12 school.
During the period of 2007-09 the Trojans went 85-50, reaching the NCAA Sweet 16 with a school-record 25 wins in 2006-07 and finishing the season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. In 2007-08 the Trojans went 21-12 and in 2009 season they went 22-13, while winning the Pac-10 Tournament championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament, making it a school-record three consecutive seasons. USC made the 2011 tournament too, making it four consecutive appearances when eligible. During Cantu's tenure the Trojans have made 5 NCAA appearances.
In the 2010-11 season Cantu was thrust into the head coach's chair hours before the Pac-10 semifinal game vs. regular season champion Arizona and the Trojans took them down to the wire in a 67-62 setback.
"Bob obviously is very important to our program," said head coach Kevin O'Neill. "His 12 years of experience are invaluable. He is ready to be a head coach at this level."
In 2010 Cantu was rated the No. 2 assistant in the Pac-10 and in 2008 he was recognized by FoxSports.com as a Top 20 college basketball assistant. Cantu has been recognized by Hoopscoop as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the country for six straight years. He also has been invited and attended the Villa 7 Coaches Consortium for the top assistant coaches for the past six years.
His on-court responsibilities have included working with the perimeter and post players and assisting with the teams' offense and defense. The USC defense has been one of the tops in the country, including leading the conference three of the past four seasons. He recruits high school, junior college and prep schools nationwide, as well as coordinates official and unofficial visits. He also has coordinated scheduling of games as well as the teams' academics.
Cantu, who has established himself as one of the premiere recruiters in the college game, played an instrumental role the Trojans' 2007 recruiting class being ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN and Hoopscoop.
In 2011, Nikola Vucevic was taken 16th in the NBA Draft by Philadelphia, establishing USC and Kansas as the only two programs in the country to have a top 16 pick in four of the five drafts from 2007-11. In 2009, DeMar DeRozan was taken No. 9 and Taj Gibson No. 26, the first time in school history that USC had two first round draft picks. In the 2007 NBA Draft, Nick Young was selected No. 16 by Washington and Gabe Pruitt No. 32 by Boston.
In 2006, the Trojans returned only four players and surprised many with a 17-13 record highlighted with wins over defending NCAA champion North Carolina, 2006 NCAA runner-up UCLA, Arizona and Stanford. Trojans Young and Pruitt were named first-team All-Pac-10 and Ryan Francis was honorable mention on the Pac-10 all freshman team. After the 2004 season, Cantu was promoted to Recruiting Coordinator and led the Trojans recruiting efforts.
He played a huge role in the transition of the program. His efforts helped USC secure a Top 10 ranked recruiting class in 2005 according to HoopScoop. The 2006 recruiting class was even stronger with three top 50 recruits and an overall No. 1 recruiting class in the Pac-10 according to HoopScoop.
In his first year with USC in 2002, the Trojans made an NCAA Tournament appearance, tied for second in the Pac-10 Conference and reached the Pac-10 Tournament finals while being ranked in the AP Top 25 much of the year and finishing No. 18 in the final poll. The Trojans also produced the Pac-10 Player of the Year Sam Clancy who was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Cantu came to USC after a year-and-a-half serving as an assistant coach at Sacramento State (2000-01). While with the Hornets, his responsibilities included recruiting (he signed one of the top classes in school history), fund-raising (including securing John Wooden for a tip-off banquet), coordinating the team defense, organizing individual workouts, controlling the operation budget and monitoring academics.
Prior to that, Cantu spent three seasons (1997-1999) as assistant coach at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, Calif. While at Cuesta, Cantu served as the recruitment and placement coordinator as well as defensive coordinator. Cantu also conducted all individual workouts. In his three years with the Cougars, the team averaged 23 wins and claimed a pair of Western State Conference titles. He also placed 10 players with Division I schools.
Before his tenure at Cuesta, Cantu served (1996-1997) as a basketball administrative assistant at Cal Poly. His responsibilities with the Mustangs included film exchange, film breakdown, scouting, assisting in recruiting, and directing the summer basketball camps. Cantu served as director of the camps from its inception and helped raise participation to more than 600 in two years.
Cantu spent three seasons (1993-96) as the Head JV coach and varsity assistant coach at Mission Prep High in San Luis Obispo. He guided the Royals to three league championships. He founded the Bob Cantu Fundamental Basketball Camps in 1997 in his hometown of Paso Robles. His camp has become a popular place for kids of all ages to improve their basketball skills, with over 7,000 attending over the 16 years.
He was a three-year varsity player at Paso Robles High School before graduating in 1992. He attended Cuesta College and Cal Poly before receiving his bachelor's degree in sociology from Chapman University in 1997. Cantu is single and resides in Redondo Beach.