As he watched Thursday’s first round of the Masters from a grandstand overlooking the No. 16 tee, former UCLA and Georgia basketball coach Jim Harrick predicted Frank Martin will have success “if he can get players to come to South Carolina.”
Martin, who finished 14-18 in his first year as the Gamecocks basketball coach, and Harrick have known each other since December of 2009, Harrick said. Harrick was speaking in Mobile, Ala., at the GMAC Bowl, and Martin’s Kansas State team was playing Alabama in Mobile the same week.
“After the game, he came up and said, ‘What do you think of my team?’ We talked for a long time,” Harrick said.
They stayed in touch from there, and Harrick eventually met with Martin in Manhattan, Kan., to talk basketball.
“I really don’t do this because a lot of guys ask you to come in but a lot of guys don’t listen. They have their own ego and things, but Frank was persistent so I went in to Kansas State in February and gave him my opinion, and he did it, and they made a great run in the tournament,” Harrick said.
The Wildcats beat Xavier 101-96 in the Sweet 16 that year before losing 63-56 to Butler.
“They were 10 times better than Butler,” Harrick said. “They would have beaten Butler, gone to the Final Four, but they had no energy. Frank and I remained really good friends.”
Harrick, who won the 1995 national title with the Bruins, knows the ground that Martin is trying to traverse. He was hired at Georgia, another SEC school where football comes first, in 2000. After resurrecting the Bulldogs program, he was fired in 2003 amid an investigation into multiple NCAA violations.
“I think (Martin) will do a great job in South Carolina,” Harrick said. “To do a great job, you have to be able to recruit. He can coach. When he gets his players in there, he’s going to be really competitive. You have to recruit. He’ll have enough resources, planes and money, to recruit. You wait, you give him three or four years and he’ll do a great job at South Carolina.”