This one was for the 1970 ACC regular-season champions, the kids who dominated the best league in the country but saw their best player sprain his ankle and lose the conference tournament in the one-bid days of the NCAA Tournament.
This one was for the team that signed top national recruit Mike Grosso, only to see other schools complain so hard that Grosso was denied his chance to play at South Carolina.
This one was for the players in Frank McGuire’s New York pipeline, who built the Gamecocks into a national power only to see the school leave the conference that made it great.
This one was for the kids who wandered the wilderness from 1971-83 under two coaches, looking for a conference and respect as double-digit losses replaced the wins they used to get so easily.
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This one was for Bill Foster, a man who did great things only to have the indignity of not being the guy – as in the one he replaced at USC (McGuire) and the one who succeeded him at Duke (Mike Krzyzewski).
This one was for that great 1982-83 team, which would have gone so much further than the NIT had their coach not suffered a heart attack midseason.
This one was for all the fans who agonized over coaching searches where it seemed like every big name in America told the Gamecocks “Thanks, but no thanks.”
This one was for all of the embarrassment over Coppin State and Richmond.
This one was for the brief highs that never seemed to equal all of the lows.
This one was for 8-win and 10-win overall seasons.
This one was for Carey, who has given everything he has to this program, first as a player, then as an ambassador.
This one was for Lucas and Eidson and Bradley and Carrera and Downey and Fredrick and Wallace and Foster, who never got the chance to get here.
This one was for a coach who took a leap of faith, leaving an Elite Eight program for one that had been to eight tournaments ever.
This one was for a group of kids sometimes short on talent but long on belief, who gathered under that coach for a chance to play in a game like Sunday’s.
This one was for the fans that packed Carolina Coliseum and Colonial Life Arena, season after season, hoping that year would be The Year.
This one is forever.
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