Promising to mature and pledging his allegiance to South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, Gamecocks basketball coach Frank Martin met the media Friday, one day after he was suspended for behavior and language directed at a player.
“I’ve got faults, and I’ve got to fix them,” Martin said during a 20-minute question-and-answer session. “I am concerned with fixing my problems because I can’t help others unless I fix my own problems. You have heard me talk about maturity a lot this year. I think it’s time that I start maturing, too.”
Martin was suspended from coaching Saturday’s game against Mississippi State after directing a profane outburst at freshman point guard Duane Notice during Tuesday’s loss to No. 1 Florida. A replay of the incident spread widely on the internet immediately after the game.
Martin described himself as “extremely disappointed in my ignorant actions that have impacted our team in a negative way” and commended Tanner’s decision to suspend him.
“I fully, fully support Ray Tanner’s decision on this. He acted like the great leader that he is in trying to resolve something that is embarrassing to our university,” Kendall said. “He didn’t act based on one situation.”
During a Jan. 18 loss to Ole Miss, a television camera showed Martin cursing at senior guard Brenton Williams. Martin apologized for that outburst three days later. Martin and Tanner have talked several times during the last “five or six months” about issues designed to “help me become a better coach,” Martin said.
“I couldn’t be more thankful he is my boss,” Martin said.
Tanner did not attend Friday’s news conference because he was in Duluth, Ga., to watch the Gamecocks play in the SEC women’s basketball tournament.
“I hope Frank Martin is our basketball coach for a long, long time,” he told The State from the event.
Martin was asked if he would seek counseling to help manage his behavior and indicated he would lean on his players, Tanner, his wife and his mother for support.
“Those are the people that believe in me,” he said. “I need their help so I can continue to grow as a person.”
Martin and Tanner did not discuss what punishment Martin will face if another public incident occurs. Asked if he was confident none would happen, Martin replied, “There’s only one person in this room you can blame if it does happen again.”
Martin, who is in his second season at South Carolina, ceased swearing in his final year at Kansas State, he said.
“New job, different responsibilities, different expectations, different challenges kind of strayed me away from a commitment I had made to myself in my previous place of employment,” he said. “There have been some challenges this year in my personal life and in basketball. I’ve got a big, big problem in that I care too much. I care about our players.”
Martin already had told his players that he planned to give up cursing for Lent, which began Wednesday, one day after the Notice incident.
“I don’t let my players swear,” he said. “When they swear in my presence, I am not happy.”
Martin added that the language and behavior that led to his suspension are isolated incidents and not a reflection of his overall character.
“I don’t speak like that 24 hours a day,” he said. “There might be 12 seconds of the day that something comes out that shouldn’t. I have to work on those 12 seconds. I feel good about who I am the other 23 hours and whatever of the day. I think I offer a lot of good to people the other parts of the day.”
He also defended his relationship with his players.
“I have been doing this for 30 years not 30 days,” he said. “I think if you polled, you would find a very big majority (of parents) have an unbelievable amount of respect for the kind of commitment I have made to their children. I live for moments like the one I had Tuesday where Brenton Williams’ dad shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you for helping my son become a man.’”
Sitting out Saturday’s game “is going to be hard,” said Martin, who added that telling his 6-year-old son that they wouldn’t be going to Mississippi for the game was the hardest moment for him. Martin planned to attend his daughter’s cheerleading competition in Tennessee on his involuntary off day.
“I’ve got a lot of pride, and the one thing that I have always done is I have always stood up and fought with my guys,” he said. “Not being able to do that and leaving them on their own, it stings.”
Martin called Tanner to apologize on Wednesday and the two met in person on Thursday, at which time Tanner informed Martin that he will not be permitted to coach Saturday’s regular season finale against Mississippi State.
“I represent higher education. I understand that. I have a duty to the people at this university who hired me to conduct myself in a certain way,” Martin said. “I can’t do anything other than apologize. I’ve got to be who I am. Everyone else has to be who they are. I can’t force people to like me, but I’ve got to respect this university. I can’t force people to come to a game if they choose not to come, but I have a responsibility to act the right way for this university. That’s all I can consume myself with right now.”
-- Staff writer David Cloninger contributed to this report.
Full press conference below
Watch the press conference below (Martin begins at the 19:00 mark):Video streaming by Ustream