Dave Odom, after being among 3,400 noisy basketball fans for two hours, had some alone time late Friday evening. The former South Carolina coach was part of the ESPN3 broadcast for USC-Wofford and now he was driving home to Winston-Salem.
Naturally the scrapbook pages started to turn in his head.
“I kind of reminisced in my own mind,” Odom said by phone Saturday afternoon. “It was fun thinking about all the great times I had at South Carolina. It was really good.”
Odom, 75, will soon jet off to Hawaii to serve his duty as Maui Invitational chairman. He won’t be in Colonial Life Arena on Monday evening when USC unveils its first Final Four banner in program history.
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But he’s thrilled such a ceremony is happening.
“For the Gamecock faithful, it’s been a long-suffering process,” Odom said. “It’s been a while since they’ve been able to flex their muscles and show their Gamecock pride. So I think as a fan-base, they’re very, very deserving.
“And for Frank (Martin) to be able to bring it to them, I think that’s remarkable. I mean really, really remarkable.”
Martin’s Gamecocks (1-0) tip off with Western Michigan (1-0) at 8 p.m. Monday. The banner presentation is scheduled for 7:45.
This all comes nine years after Odom coached his last game in Columbia. From 2001-08, he guided Carolina to 128 wins, one NCAA Tournament appearance and two NIT titles.
Last spring, as he watched Sindarius Thornwell, P.J. Dozier and company march through to Phoenix, Odom wasn’t surprised.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘I knew it could be done,’” he said. “I literally said, ‘I knew it could be done,’ and then I said, ‘I wish it could have been me. I wish I could have done it.’”
On March 19, 2004, Odom’s 10th-seeded Gamecocks fell to Memphis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It marked USC’s fifth consecutive loss in the Big Dance, a streak that dated back to 1974 and the Frank McGuire era.
Before coming to USC, Odom, an assistant at Virginia from 1982-89 and head coach at Wake Forest from 1989-2001, always looked with curiosity toward the Gamecocks.
“I often wondered what was holding South Carolina bask from being a really good basketball school,” he said. “Coach McGuire had his day and he’ll always be the captain of the ship, if you will, down there, but being able to build a program and sustain it are two different things.”
Big moments in USC basketball are scattered. There’s the 1971 ACC title, the NCAA appearances from ’71-’74, the 1997 SEC title, Odom’s NIT success and then last year’s magical ride.
Odom is partially echoing what Martin noted last month.
“We can't stop,” Martin said when asked about facility upgrades. “They won an ACC championship here, right? They also won an SEC championship here. Why, why did after those championships did the school go (whistling sound) and everyone else go (whistling sound)?
“People didn't pay attention to investing on the success. They took it for granted. So other people built, we just kind of (whistling sound) stayed the same. In life, you never stay the same. You're either moving forward or you're going backwards, and we went backwards because we never grew.
“We can't allow the momentum we have created – we, I'm not saying me – we have created here over the last five years, we can't allow that to go to waste.”
The 2017-18 Gamecocks have eight new players, making the quest for an encore performance difficult. South Carolina hasn’t made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments since 1997-98.
Odom, though, was on hand for Friday’s 73-52 whipping of Wofford.
“I think at this time South Carolina is in really good shape,” Odom said. “I think they’re going to have a really good year. I was very impressed with them.”
Beginning Monday, the Gamecocks will play under a once-elusive banner.
“All the credit goes to Frank Martin and his players,” Odom said. “All the credit goes to the fans for being patient and encouraging and never-say-die. It’s just a really, really nice story.”
Western Michigan (1-0) at USC (1-0)
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
TV: SEC Network