Looking back with the hiring of Frank Martin

                               As the Gamecocks get ready for their first trip to the Final Four, I look back to see where this team came from, going from a 10-win team in Darrin Horn’s final year, to the administration bringing in a fierce coach from K-State in Frank Martin to rebuild this team basically from scratch. During the off-season between Coach Horn being let go and Coach Martin taking over, many players would wind up transferring from the program and others would follow throughout Coach Martin’s first couple of years in Columbia. In his first two seasons at the helm, darrin hornCoach Martin didn’t win many games, and it seemed as if this team would be sub .500 for a while.  The Gamecocks hadn’t gotten  into the big dance since ’04 and it didn’t look like that was going to happen anytime soon.

                In Coach Martin’s first season, you could tell no one believed in that team and no one wanted to get disappointed by watching  them as well when less than half of the stadium was filled in the season opener of the 2012 season. In the season open victory against frank martinMilwaukee, the attendance for that game was at 7,335, which is drastically less than half of the possible attendance of 18,000.  Most probably didn’t want to pay to watch what was expected to be a bad team. As seasons went by, the attendance increased.

                Starting in his 3rd season in 2014 Coach Martin had the Gamecocks moving in the right direction. Despite losing 16 games that year, they also won 17 games for their first winning season since Darrin Horn’s first year at the helm in the ’08-’09 season when the team went 21-10 and made the NIT. By posting a winning season in his 3rd year, Coach Martin ended a streak of 5 straight losing years for this team, and as we are seeing, this team is not done winning just yet. Since his 3rd year going 17-16, Frank Martin has lead this team to a 51-19 overall record the last 2 years combined, going 25-9 last year and 26-10 so far, this year, and this team seems to be getting better each year.

                   Looking back now at the time before Coach Martin was here, it seems like it was a lot longer than 5 years that he has been here and that the Gamecocks only won 10 games the year prior to his arrival in Columbia. It goes to show that he has done such a wonderful job on this rebuilding project and how he never gave up on this team and believed that he can make this team into a winner. In his introductory press conference, Coach Martin talked about how he likes a challenge and doesn’t run away from them like others do. In an article on ESPN written around the time of the hiring, Coach Martin is quoted as saying “When people ask me ‘why’, I ask, ’why not?” This was his response to people asking him why would he take the South Carolina job. He goes on to say that he would love having another opportunity to build a program up, like what he did with K-State.  It seems as if Coach Martin was up to the challenge to take on the rebuilding project of South Carolina Men’s basketball.

                This team has competed at a whole new level this year compared to years past, but you could even say that this team is on an even newer level in the tournament than they were in the regular season, after they finished the regular season going 3-6 in the last nine games and not being expected to win anything in the NCAA tournament. Now they have a chance to play in the National Championship if they can get passed the best defensive team in the nation in Gonzaga.

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When is the time right to fire a coach?

   

    How does an organization or college know when to fire a coach? Is it after one losing season, or is it after multiple straight losing seasons. In some cases coaches do not even last multiple full seasons. In 2014 the NBA team New York Knicks hired Derek Fisher right after he retired from playing basketball. In his first season, the Knicks went 17-65. That season the Knicks averaged the fewest points per game in the league at 91.9 ppg and gave up 101.2 ppg which ranked in the bottom half of the league at 21st. This past season Derek was fired when the team was 23-31. At the point of his firing the Knicks were averaging 99 ppg, which was an increase from the previous year,  and they were giving up 101 ppg, which was better than the year before even if it is .2 points per game better.

     After Coach Fisher was relieved of his duties as coach, the Knicks promoted his assistant coach Kurt Rambis to interim head coach. With Rambis as the head man of the team for the final 28 games of the year the team’s scoring average dipped to 97 ppg, while the amount they give up stayed at 101 ppg. In this situation, Derek Fisher should have been able to keep his job to at least the end of the season since the team was improving.

      I was caught off guard by the Derek Fisher firing because the team was improving from his first year. It also caught me off guard, because if Derek Fisher got fired for going 40-96 over 2+ years with the Knicks, why have the Philadelphia 76ers not fired their current coach. Since Brett Brown took the head coaching job with the 76ers the team has not been able to win close games. The 76ers have not improved as much as they should have since he has taken over. In his first year the team went 19-63, while scoring 99.5 ppg ranking them at 19th offensively and giving up 109.9 ppg ranking them at 30th defensively. In year 2 under Brown the offense regressed to only scoring 92 ppg, which ranked 29th in the league, while the defense improved allowing 101 ppg, which ranked 20th in the league. This past year was the worst under coach Brown. The 76ers went 10-72 and scored 97.4 ppg and gave up 107.6 ppg, both of which ranked 29th in the league. The 76ers record under Brown all together is 47-199, which is a winning percentage of .191.

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    In football it seems that there are a lot more firings, either during the season or right after it ends. Lovie Smith took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2014-15 NFL season, following his coaching career with the Bears. He coached the team to a  2-14 record scoring 17.3 ppg which was 29th, but gave up 25.6 ppg which was 25th in the league. The following season they improved to 6-10 and scored 21.4 ppg that ranked 20th in the league, and gave up 26.1 ppg that ranked 26th in the league. Lovie would end up being relieved of his duties as head coach following the season. Coach Smith should have been allowed one more year to show that he was improving the team, but I guess teams are impatient sometimes and want to win right away.

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