Disclaimer: I'm not a basketball guy, so I generally stay out of conversations involving Xs and Os. But you don't need to be well-versed in basketball strategy to have an opinion on this situation. If you are basketball inclined, please feel free to question my assertions and check my facts. I had to write this story in hurry, as I'm about to leave town for the weekend.
It's been quite the week for the Gamecock basketball program. First news broke that Stephen Spinella and Ramon Galloway were leaving the team to pursue careers elsewhere. OK, fine. Spinella was virtually a non-factor this season and if the coaches didn't see fit to play him much this year, it wasn't likely that we has going to see the court much next year, either. The Galloway loss hurt a bit more, but it was not a critical blow to a team that had plenty of options to fill his absence. Then on Thursday we hear that Bruce Ellington will be joining the football team this coming season. Gamecock fans are divided along the spectrum of whether this is a good idea, but there is no denying that Ellington playing football is bad for the basketball team. Darrin Horn obviously saw Ellington as the piece around which to build his team. Now Ellington will be practicing football instead of basketball over the summer, and he won't even be available to the basketball team until almost the beginning of conference play. What's more is that he's likely to be fatigued from a season of football practices and games. That's a big deal for a player who saw his production decline as the season progressed, presumably due to the stresses of a Division 1 major college schedule. He might as well be off the team. And now comes news that Murphy Holloway is transferring back to Ole Miss, from whence he came. That's four player attrition in as many days, and the question has to be asked, "Can Darrin Horn recover from this?"
I'll answer that question with another question: "How could he?" The 2010-11 basketball season was miserable enough, but the one thing that kept us sane was the hope that, with experience, the team would improve the next season. Now the Gamecocks have shed 6 years of SEC experience and lost three players. Even with two top 150 recruits coming in next year, how much can the team really improve? We're probably looking at another season very similar this one - except without the win over Clemson.
Carolina's roe to hoe won't get any easier, either. The Gamecocks are already scheduled to take on Ohio State and UNC, teams that are one and two seeds in this year's NCAA tournament . There was already some grumbling about whether Horn was the right man for the job this year. Do you really think Gamecock fans are going to be just as patient after a similar season in 2012? What makes it all the worse is that Darrin Horn is in a quagmire of his own making. In none of his four years will Darrin Horn have fielded a team with the maximum number of scholarship players. We've been hearing that Darrin Horn is building a program - which takes time - for three years now. But after those three years the prospects for our program look bleaker than they ever did under Dave Odom. We're going to have trouble even fielding a team next season with only nine players on scholarship. In three years time that's as many players as Darrin Horn has driven off the team! Consider the following players Darrin Horn has shown the door because "They cannot help our team.":
Trevor Deloach - "Basically what (Horn) told me was I wasn’t good enough for the SEC."
Chad Gray - Violations of team rules.
Darrius Morrow - "I rarely talk to them (new head coach Darrin Horn's staff), and they go recruit other players in our class but they've barely talked to me, and I'm a signee," he told the paper. "So I just don't feel comfortable up there anymore."
Carter Mitchel - Transferred after being told he wouldn't see much playing time.
Austin Steed - "I've visited with Austin, and there's just not opportunity for him," Horn said.
Mike Holmes - Violation of team rules
Stephen Spinella - Opted to transfer
Ramon Galloway - Opted to transfer
Bruce Ellington - Decided football is more important to him
Murphy Holloway - Opted to transfer without ever playing a minute for USC
Taken one at a time these transfers and dismissals all seem quite reasonable. At the time I applauded Horn for implementing his style of play with the players he wanted. But taken together, I see a major problem in the way Darrin Horn is running his program. That's ten players in 3 years! Good Lord a'mighty! How is Darrin Horn going to recruit kids to come play for us with this track record?
After another sub-.500 year will Gamecock fans be willing to give Horn one more year based on the excuse that the team is still young? I doubt it. And all this is assuming we're not continually blowing games by 30 points! In all honesty, I think we might be better off trying to line up a new coach right now. Darrin Horn had his chance and he blew it. So he thinks those guys couldn't contribute to our program. But you have to ask yourself one question right now, who is contributing to Carolina basketball?