Memphis coach Josh Pastner held an unprompted lobby for longtime pal Frank Martin after Saturday’s 86-76 loss to South Carolina. He said three times during his postgame press conference that USC needed to lock Martin into a new contract.
USC athletics director Ray Tanner heard it, and responded on Sunday.
“I don’t think there’s a Gamecock anywhere that’s not pleased with both our men’s program and our women’s program right now,” Tanner exclusively told The State at halftime of the USC women’s 85-32 victory over Arkansas. “Certainly, I’m excited. I feel like I got a great relationship with both of our coaches. I’m interested in the momentum continuing.”
The Gamecocks’ teams set an SEC record Sunday by starting their seasons a combined 26-0, which beat Tennessee’s mark of 25 in 1997-98. The USC women, ranked second in the country, began the SEC season with a victory, while USC’s men will almost certainly rise from their No. 24 ranking on Monday after improving to 13-0. Martin’s Gamecocks head to Auburn on Tuesday looking for their initial SEC victory.
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Martin signed a six-year deal when Eric Hyman hired him in March 2012, and Tanner took over for Hyman in July 2012. Martin hasn’t been extended from his original deal, leaving him two full seasons after 2015-16.
Pastner said that what Martin’s done deserves a new deal.
“If I was the administration at South Carolina, I wouldn’t let him go anywhere, because he’s going to be a guy that’s going to be getting tons of offers after each year, and I would try to sign him up to as long of a contract as you can,” he said. “I wouldn’t let him leave here. He’s a program-builder and he’s a high-level coach.”
Talks of a contract extension, especially midseason, would be a sideshow to the men’s team best start in over 80 years. Tanner said he definitely doesn’t want to be a distraction.
“Contracts are always on my mind, for all of our coaches,” he said. “But I know that right now, coach Martin is completely focused on getting SEC season underway and like I said, that’s where our momentum needs to be, and that’s where our focus needs to be right now.”
Previous midseason contract extensions haven’t turned out well at USC.
Martin’s predecessor, Darrin Horn, was extended in December of 2009. Horn’s first year (2008-09) resulted in 21 wins, an SEC East championship and an NIT berth, and while his second year began strongly, an injury to Dominique Archie shortly before the extension whittled the team’s depth. Horn’s second game after the extension was a loss at Wofford, and the Gamecocks never touched the highs of his first year throughout the remainder of his tenure.
Martin brushed Pastner’s comments aside as well.
“I don’t get into that stuff,” he told The State. “I work for the best guy in the country.”
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