Many South Carolina Gamecock fans of my age may have a hard time remembering Dave Odom, which might I say is a darn shame.
Though Odom may be more widely known as Tim Duncan’s coach at Wake Forest or as an assistant at Virginia during the Ralph Sampson years, his final coaching stint was in Columbia from 2002-2008.
In those years Odom took South Carolina to the NCAA Tournament, won the NIT twice and coached South Carolina’s only NBA draft pick this century. To this day he still carries an 803 area code on his phone and frequents the Palmetto State for vacation.
We caught up with coach Odom to ask him about his non-hatred for Clemson, Gamecock success at MSG and how South Carolina can upset Gonzaga in the Final Four:
Chris Stanley: Any general thoughts on what’s happened in this tournament? I mean this is all pretty crazy.
Dave Odom: I can’t say enough good things about Frank Martin and his staff. This has been a long time coming for this program.
CS: I know most basketball fans associate you with Wake Forest, but do you still have a personal connection with the South Carolina considering that’s the last place you coached?
DO: I still have a deep, abiding love for the state and the fans in Columbia. I was probably different than many coaches at SC since I never got into the “we hate Clemson” thing.
CS: Really? Why was that?
DO: My ACC background kept me from really having ill feelings towards Clemson. I respected Clemson from my time at Wake and continued to do so when I was at SC. I remember one of my bosses told me you don’t hate them enough, which I just laughed off. I was more focused on winning the SEC.
CS: Do you still come visit?
DO: I like everything about the state. I love things going on in the upstate and still love visiting the low county. I still visit North Myrtle Beach. I still love the food and the shagging in Charleston with the islands there. And may I mention Columbia is a city that is very misunderstood.
CS: Yeah Columbia gets a bad rep for being the “armpit” of that state. Why do you like it so much?
DO: There is so much to do and enjoy in Columbia. The University keeps the town young while state government keeps things orderly. It’s a historic city and I think it’s a great town for someone to spend their college years.
CS: Speaking of Columbia, how much South Carolina basketball did you get to catch this year outside the tournament run?
DO: I saw them sporadically on TV, there were a lot of games where they couldn’t shoot -- it’d just be one bomb after the other. But their defense was always solid, and that same defense will hold them steady going forward.
CS: So what’s the key to jump-starting the offense? That has been a consistent struggle this season for SC.
DO: Offense is harder to bring along. Defense you can play on effort to be steady. Offense is more execution oriented. Even in a loss up there in Nashville I could see they were going to be really, really good because the execution was improving.
CS: That certainly showed up in the NCAA’s. You might have been the only person who felt fine after the SEC tournament.
DO: I thought South Carolina was a better team than Duke and Marquette, and I know people will say South Carolina had homecourt advantage. But if there’s a team that should be adjusted to tough road play it’s Duke, and you can’t give up 65 points in the second half. It was an amazing thing to watch.
CS: So do you think this is a hot streak they’re riding? Or is there more to it?
DO: I do think they were still riding the crest going into MSG. Funny enough I was listening to a radio show and they asked Bobby Cremins about South Carolina basketball history. He talked about Frank McGuire and all that. I texted him to not forget SC has recently done very well in MSG come tournament time.
CS: What do you mean?
DO: When I coached at SC we won four in a row at MSG during the two NIT championships. So South Carolina is 6-0 in tournament play at MSG, so I made sure Bobby knew that. He texted me back, “I corrected it.” I thought that was funny.
CS: Too bad SC can’t keep playing at MSG right? Gonzaga is going to be a tough out.
DO: They’re going to be big, skilled and tougher than they’ve been given credit for. But Gonzaga has no more experience in the Final Four than SC does. There are two equally inexperienced teams, and SC has to figure out how to stop the inside play. I’ve always said you can take away big guys better than perimeter players.
CS: You figure Przemek Karnowski is the guy you have to worry about right?
DO: Karnowski only plays 20 or so minutes a game, so I don’t think you can always make yourself put a man on him.
CS: You know a lot about big men, considering you coached both Ralph Sampson and Tim Duncan. What do you think of Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar?
DO: Those two need to step up defensively if South Carolina wants a chance. They need to be a big factor against Karnowski and Zach Collins. Silva and Kotsar are more physical than Gonzaga’s second line, but Karnoski is absolutely a mountain disguised as a man.
CS: What about on offense?
DO: From the offensive standpoint, SC does not run their offense thru the big men. They get their points from off set shots when the guards drive the lane and they can dump the ball off for easy dunks or lay-ins or off offensive rebounds. Silva and Kostsar need to be able to deliver 10 to 12 points each because Gonzaga will match them in the paint.