PAS­SION FOR THE GAME

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pete Iacobelli

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.