After 10 years, the South Carolina men’s basketball team will finally see a changing of the guard, as the school has decided to move on from coach Frank Martin.
Martin, who is the third longest-tenured coach in program history, compiled a 171-147 record (79-99 in SEC regular-season games) with the Gamecocks — highlighted, of course, by the team’s first-ever Final Four appearance. South Carolina also appeared in the NIT once under Martin, and had two 20-win seasons.
South Carolina just wrapped up an 18-13 (9-9 SEC) season, punctuated by an immediate and disappointing exit from the SEC Tournament, and failed to make the postseason.
While there’s no question Martin took this program to an incredible height with the Final Four, the lows were far more numerous, and recent seasons showed little reason to hope for much. The 2020-21 campaign was rocked by COVID — with Martin getting it himself not once, but twice — and many observers assumed he would get a mulligan for that, with this season being the deciding factor as to whether he would stay or go.
For my part, I think it’s obvious that this change was badly needed, though I wish Martin well wherever he goes next. While the Final Four appearance bought him some much deserved goodwill, he ultimately failed to capitalize on it in any meaningful way — the top-flight recruits, 20-win seasons, etc., just didn’t materialize, and while I understand coaching basketball at South Carolina is a hard row to hoe, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a captivating Final Four run should have been able to galvanize the program more than it did.
The search now begins immediately, with former players like B.J. McKie and Mike Boynton Jr. being two names that have floated to the top of many speculative lists. It will be interesting to see whether athletic director Ray Tanner takes a similar approach like he did with the football team, choosing a young up-and-comer with Gamecock ties, or whether he opts for a more seasoned coach like College of Charleston’s Pat Kelsey (formerly of Winthrop). For the first time in a while, the men’s basketball program will have an intriguing offseason ahead of it.