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.

Having different expectations with certain coaches before they start is not always the good way to go.

            At the end of this past college football season, an unbelievable amount of head coaching jobs opened up. During this past season 10 head coaching jobs opened up, then during the off season 18 more opened up due to coaches getting jobs else where. One of the most notable openings was at South Carolina, when Steve Spurrier stepped down mid season and replaced with Shawn Elliot. During the off season the Gamecocks hired former UF head coach Will Muschamp. When this was announced many people, including myself at first, saw this as a horrible hiring and were mad that the Gamecocks missed out on the likes of Kirby Smart, who went to UGA, and Tom Herman, the head man of the Houston Cougars.

         footballThe biggest reason for the outrage towards the hire was that Muschamps tenure at Florida did not go as a lot of people would have wanted it to. His numbers at Florida did not indicate he would get another crack at a head coaching job after one year of being a defensive coordinator, especially in the SEC. Muschamp was the head man at Florida from 2011-14, after being the DC and possible replacement of the great Mack Brown at Texas. He went 28-21 while at Florida. I can understand why people do not think he is a good coach, but what people do not seem to take into consideration is that he was coming into a job with HUGE expectations.

            He had to follow in the foot steps of Urban Meyer, the Gators second best coach behind, ironically, Steve Spurrier. People are to quick to judge a coach. One of the greatest football coaches this generation has ever seen, Nick Saban, had his struggles early on in his career. After coach Saban left Toledo after one year, he went to Michigan St. While the coach of the Spartans, coach Saban collected a record of 34-24-1 over 5 years before going to coach LSU. Nick Sabans winning percentage at Michigan St is barely better then that of Muschamps winning percentage at Florida. Mack Brown is a sure thing hall of fame coach for college football, but his first few years did not go to well. Coach Brown got his first head coaching job at Tulane. His record during his tenure there would be 11-23. That is a winning percentage of .324. After his tenure at Tulane, he would go on to find some success leading the UNC Tar heels program, before landing at UT and leading that program to monumental success with a national title in 2005 and another trip to the title game in ’09.

        clipboardWhat I am saying is that you can not judge a book by its cover. Another great example of that in another sport would be the Boston Celtics taking a risk and hiring Brad Stevens away from his successful coaching career at Butler. Many thought this could be disastrous because college coaches have not really found success in the pros, but coach Stevens is slowly proving that wrong in only his third year at the head. Many are already saying he is one of the future coaching greats. Coach Stevens NBA career started rocky going 25-57 his first year, but he has improved his record last year and this year, going 40-42 and 48-34 respectively, with two playoff appearances. Coaches, no matter the league or sport, learn from their mistakes or learn to adapt to new leagues.