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March 26, 2012

'Something must be going right at South Carolina'



Determined to "respect the confidentiality and integrity" of the two-week search process for South Carolina's next men's basketball coach, USC athletics director Eric Hyman wouldn't confirm or deny on Monday that Kansas State's Frank Martin had accepted the job, despite widespread reports he had.

But Hyman was willing to talk about a conversation he had with Martin, though, again, he didn't mention him by name.

Through this conversation, Hyman offered clues as to why Martin agreed to leave Kansas State and take on the enormous task of reviving the USC program.

"One of the interesting statements (Martin) said during the process was, 'You know, you've got Steve Spurrier, you've got Dawn Staley and you've got Ray Tanner. Something must be going right at South Carolina,'" Hyman said Monday on the "Inside the Roost" program on 107.5 The Game. "When I took a step backwards after his comment, I thought about it and realized he was right."

Hyman's comment mirrored those of ESPN's Andy Katz, who reported on Monday that Martin had confirmed to him in a text message that he had accepted the USC job. GamecockCentral.com reported that Martin was set to accept the job on Monday morning.

Katz maintained that a deteriorating relationship with Kansas State AD John Currie contributed heavily to Martin's decision to leave for USC.

"He was not getting along with his athletic director," Katz said. "That is a fact. That relationship has been fractured. South Carolina got wind and wanted to make a major splash with this hire."

According to Katz, a source told him that Martin was "intrigued by joining an athletic department that has a national-champion baseball team, Steve Spurrier coaching football and Dawn Staley as head coach of the women's team" and "wants the challenge of getting the Gamecocks to the top of the SEC."

Also, Columbia is located much closer to his main recruiting areas than Manhattan, Kan.

"It's closer to his recruiting base in south Florida and he has connections in the D.C. area," Katz reported.

The USC Board of Trustees is scheduled to hold a conference call at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at Colonial Life Arena for purposes of discussing and then officially approving Martin's contract.

A source told GamecockCentral.com that Martin's first-year payment will be between $1.75-2 million and the contract will run for five or six years.

It is widely believed the Board will approve a multi-year contract for Martin, who leaves Kansas State after guiding the Wildcats to four NCAA Tournament appearances in five years.

USC will formally introduce Martin at a press conference inside the Frank McGuire Room at Colonial Life Arena immediately following the conclusion of the meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The press conference should begin at approximately 10:45 a.m.

"It's been a very challenging couple of weeks," Hyman said. "It will culminate (Tuesday) at the Colonial Life Arena. It's an exciting time to be a Gamecock. It will be a special day. Hopefully, this will be a turning point for the program and we'll see the program progress a lot like Dawn Staley's team.

"Remember, when Steve Spurrier came it didn't happen overnight for him. We have a lot of tradition in baseball, but it started somewhere. We're committed to having a heck of a men's basketball program. I think the statement will be made (Tuesday)."

A former high profile college coach now working in TV believes USC's bold move to hire Martin will pay dividends for the Gamecocks.

"Frank Martin would be a terrific hire. I think he's a heckuva coach," CBS Sports college basketball analyst Tom Penders said Monday afternoon on 107.5 FM. "If he stared me down, I'd do as many sprints as he asked. He followed Bobby Huggins (at Kansas State) and it's difficult to follow a guy like that and be successful.

"He took his team and made them better. No matter how talented his team was, he seemed to get the most out of them. He seems to have the ability to communicate with players. He can coach whatever style you need to have."

Martin was able to recruit four and five-star prospects to Manhattan, Kan., even though the small college town isn't known for being an exciting place to go to school.

Penders maintained that if Martin was successful luring talented prospects to KSU, he should be able to do the same for USC.

"It's a lot harder pulling kids into Manhattan, Kan.," Penders said. "Kansas, even on a nice day, you have a 40 mile per hour wind blowing dirt in your face. It's not an easy place to get to or come from. If Frank takes it, he feels he can do great things there. Otherwise, he can stay right where he is and continue to win."

USC enjoyed national prominence in the early 1970s under Frank McGuire, again for a two-year stretch in the mid-1990s under Eddie Fogler and then captured consecutive NIT titles in 2005 and 2006 under Dave Odom.

However, for nearly four decades USC has been off the national college basketball radar and Penders says the Martin hire could fix that.

"There's no reason why South Carolina can't be a national player," Penders said. "Frank McGuire was like a grandfather to me when I was a young coach. We talked a lot about what he did and how he developed a great recruiting chain from New York to South Carolina. They have to find a coach with great recruiting ties to places like New York, Chicago, Detroit and Florida.

"South Carolina was known as a great basketball power in the past. They were a Top 10 program. They can get back to that. It's just hiring the right guy. When you do get the right guy, it's a matter of supporting him and working with him. If you have a coach's back, he'll have your back as an athletic director."

Will Martin energize Gamecock Nation with his intense, emotional, in-your-face style of coaching? Penders said the answer is yes if Martin is willing to work with the USC students and fans.

"South Carolina has a fan base," Penders said. "I know that when things are bad, they stop coming out. But they have a big student body. A coach could rally that and get it going. Football has slowly gotten it up there. Steve Spurrier has done a tremendous job there. He's a competitive guy. Look what he has done at South Carolina. Nobody thought he could turn that baby around. But, it's been a long time since I've seen South Carolina basketball on national television except for early in the season."

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D. McCallum


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