Horn promises SEC titles, national respect at USC

South Carolina's new basketball coach Darrin Horn said Tuesday he intends to win the Southeastern Conference and make the Gamecocks a force nationally.

Horn said he'll waste no time in trying to improve South Carolina, who finished last season 14-18, has made the NCAA tournament just once this decade, and won its only regular season SEC title in 1997.

"We're here to compete and to win big and to win championships in the SEC and to be relevant nationally," said Horn, who took Western Kentucky to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament this season, the Hilltoppers' best NCAA tournament finish in 15 years.

Horn, 35, could make more than $1.3 million a year at South Carolina, a substantial raise from the $157,000 a year he made at Western Kentucky.

Horn will be paid $800,000 annually. His five-year contract includes incentives for winning that could be worth up to an additional $335,000 per year. He also will be paid $50,000 for every 1,000 additional season tickets sold over this season's total of 9,322 tickets.

Horn vowed to fill South Carolina's 18,000-seat arena to capacity.

"We're here to win championships and to not make any excuses and that's what we're going to do," Horn said.

Horn already has three recruiting appointments inside South Carolina on Wednesday, the day he officially takes over the post held for seven seasons by Dave Odom, who went 128-104 overall and 41-71 in the SEC in his seven years.

"We are going to put a fence around the state of South Carolina, and the best players in South Carolina are going to be recruited to play at the University of South Carolina," Horn said.

Horn's Western Kentucky teams improved nearly every year, finishing this season with a school record 29 wins. The Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt Conference title and advanced to the West Regional semifinals, losing to top-seeded UCLA.

It was their first trip to the Sweet 16 since Horn was a point guard on a team that beat Memphis and upset Seton Hall to make the regional semifinals in the 1993 NCAA tournament.

Horn was an assistant at Western Kentucky, Morehead State and Marquette before becoming the Hilltoppers head coach in 2003, replacing Dennis Felton, who left for Georgia. Horn went 111-48 in five seasons.

South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman said he may have been more impressed with what Horn's players did in the classroom than on the court. Every player who completed his eligibility at Western Kentucky earned a degree.

"You're going to have the best of the best reach the primary goal here at South Carolina and that's to leave here with a degree," Horn said.

Hyman welcomed Horn, his wife Carla, 7-year-old daughter Caroline and 4-year-old son Walker with several Gamecock hats and other memorabilia.