UPDATE: Frank Martin will address the media at 2:45 p.m. Friday
South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin was suspended for Saturday’s regular-season finale at Mississippi State by athletics director Ray Tanner on Thursday, following a verbal altercation with a player during Tuesday’s 72-46 loss to Florida.
It is the second time this season that Martin’s sideline behavior has been called into question.
“The one-game suspension is a result of inappropriate verbal communication as it relates to the well-being of our student-athletes,” Tanner said in a statement. Tanner did not return phone messages on Thursday.
With about 10 minutes remaining in Tuesday’s game, cameras caught Martin screaming at freshman point guard Duane Notice. Martin directed a profane outburst at Notice during a timeout.
A video clip of the moment went viral and some USC fans complained to the athletics department.
A USC season ticket-holder who did not wish to be identified said he called Tanner to address Martin’s behavior, and it wasn’t the first time he had done so. The supporter, whose son played major college basketball, has not been pleased with Martin’s sideline demeanor since he was hired.
“I’m sitting with a real heavy booster who has a box, and I buy season tickets, and it hit me – why do we have to put up with this?” the ticket-holder said. “When you start screaming at a kid, you completely cease to communicate with him. It makes the university look bad.”
The ticket-holder also mentioned that several other fans and boosters who had the same opinion also let Tanner know of their displeasure.
Martin brought a reputation for animated behavior and harsh language on the sideline with him from Kansas State.
Tanner has publicly praised Martin and has asked fans to be patient with the program, which has only had three winning SEC seasons in 23 years. Martin has likewise said that he likes working under Tanner, who took the AD job shortly after Eric Hyman hired Martin. Hyman left USC for the AD job at Texas A&M.
At Kansas State, a rift with athletics director John Currie was thought to be a reason why Martin left. Currie, like Tanner, was hired when Martin was already in place. Currie and Martin have each denied they had a problem with each other.
Martin apologized for another outburst he had on Jan. 18. During a 75-74 loss to Ole Miss, Martin also was caught on camera cursing at senior guard Brenton Williams.
“I got after (Williams) pretty darned good on the sideline in the first half, and I visited with him about it and apologized to him,” Martin said on Jan. 21. “And I do want to apologize to any fans that were behind the bench that maybe heard what was said. I was wrong for that, and there’s no excuse for it.”
Martin also said that there was no place for himself or any other coach to speak to an athlete the way he did to Williams. Williams took over the team’s scoring lead soon after and has scored in double figures in 11 of the 13 games since.
Many of Martin’s players have spoken of their coach’s fiery demeanor and lauded him for it. Freshman Sindarius Thornwell, a national Top 50 recruit, said that he signed with the Gamecocks because he wanted his coach to challenge him.
Associate head coach Matt Figger will serve as acting head coach in the game against Mississippi State. The Gamecocks must win to avoid finishing last in the SEC. Martin will not travel with the team.
Martin did not participate in his scheduled call-in radio show on Thursday night. Assistant coach Perry Clark filled in. Martin’s suspension was addressed during the broadcast but Clark did not comment further on it and calls on the topic were not allowed.
“All parties have nothing more to add at this time,” host Andy Demetra said. One caller did express well-wishes to Martin and hoped he was listening.
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState