Zam Fredrick first heard Sunday that Darrin Horn was likely to be his next coach. It was also the first time Fredrick had heard of Horn.
“I had a couple phone calls, and they asked, ‘Do you know anything about Darrin Horn?’ I was like, ‘Who is that?’ “ said Fredrick, a junior.
But he knew about Horn’s style of play at Western Kentucky because Fredrick subscribes to a college hoops TV package. So judging from that — and from a brief meeting Tuesday — Fredrick was optimistic.
“From what I’ve seen, I like the pace, I like the style,” Fredrick said. “I’m just ready to see us doing those things.”
That seemed to sum up the Gamecocks players’ feelings about their new coach: unfamiliar with him personally but happy with what they heard about the style of play he employs.
Horn plans to bring an up-tempo approach from Western Kentucky, where his teams shot a lot of 3-pointers, trapped on defense and generally ran all over the floor. During a brief talk with his new team Tuesday, Horn repeated his mantra of “playing 188 feet.”
That was how the Gamecocks started this past season — using a small but quick lineup to light up overmatched opponents. But when they ran into trouble against better teams, the pace was slowed.
But while previous coach Dave Odom was tinkering to find the right style, Horn’s philosophy is unlikely to change.
“It fits me. It fits the team,” USC point guard Devan Downey said. “Because we’re not the biggest, and we’re not the strongest. But when you get guys running up and down the court, that can make up for some of the size.”
Downey was an exception among players; he had heard of Horn from former AAU teammates a couple months ago. He never thought Horn would replace Odom but figured it would be someone like him.
“Guys were talking about this coach, that coach. I was always thinking in my head we were gonna get a successful mid-major coach who’s going to come build a foundation,” Downey said. “The big names they were throwing out, I didn’t think we were going to get those guys who had already built their foundation.”
The players were invited to Tuesday’s news conference, and, at one point, Horn asked them to stand so fans could give them an ovation. Freshman forward Mike Holmes appreciated something else Horn said at the podium.
“The (thing that impressed me the most) was he said he wanted to be here,” Holmes said. “It ain’t about the money or anything like that.”
Otherwise, players were reserving judgment. Fredrick said he was eager to get in the gym and see Horn coach. Downey said the players would get a better feel for Horn once “everything’s settled” in a few weeks or more.
Sophomore forward Dominique Archie, another key player, was asked how much was going to change with the program now that Horn was on board.
“Enough,” Archie said. “Enough is going to change for us to maybe play in the (NCAA) tournament next year.”
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