PASSION FOR THE GAME
South Carolina coach Frank Martin is amused that some people now see him as a “yeller and screamer” while watching him during his team’s historic run to the Final Four.
columbia, s.c.» South Carolina coach Frank Martin believes he’s the same straight-forward, open book he has always been, although perceptions of him have changed with the Gamecocks’ run to the Final Four.
“How the stories have changed that I’m a yeller and a screamer to that I’m a passionate man — I find that very comical,” Martin said Tuesday.
It has been quite a ride — alternately difficult, amusing and frustrating — for Martin in his five seasons with the Gamecocks, who are two wins away from a national title after not winning an NCAA Tournament game in 44 years before this month. They play Gonzaga on Saturday night in Phoenix.
“I’m having the time of my life, because of the kids in that locker room,” Martin said.
Martin has had a very fluid locker room since he arrived from Kansas State with a successful NCAA pedigree — four tournaments in five years with the Wildcats — in March 2012. He lost four players off his roster after the first season, and two or more every year after that including this past offseason with the departures of forwards Eric Cobb and Raymond Doby, and guards Marcus Stroman and Jamall Gregory. The four were expected to add depth to this season’s roster.
Instead, Martin did what he has leaned on since arriving — teaching young people life lessons and his way of playing basketball.
“You could see how much he cared,” said Estonia native Maik Kotsar, the 6-foot10 freshman who scored 12 points in South Carolina’s 77-70 win over Florida on Sunday.
Sometimes, Martin acknowledged, he cared too much.
At the end of his second season in March 2014, Martin the “yeller and screamer” was caught dressing down freshman guard Duane Notice, a tirade that angered some fans behind the bench and earned Martin a one-game suspension from athletic director Ray Tanner.
“I talk to my players about maturity,” he said at the time. “I think it’s time I work on my maturity as well.”
Martin has not given up on the yelling and his players say any harsh words are balanced with a parent’s devotion and fierce loyalty.
When backup point guard Rakym Felder was arrested at a campus nightclub area before ever playing a game, Martin defended him loudly to many who knew nothing about him.
Felder said upon his return: “I knew Frank would have my back, and he wouldn’t give up on me.”
Players don’t give up on Martin, either.
South Carolina leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell was a rising star his freshman year with many whispering in his ear that the Gamecocks — 14-20 for their fifth straight losing season — would never succeed and he should declare for the NBA. Thornwell stayed and has led the Gamecocks first-ever Final Four journey. He has scored 102 points in four games.