Frank Martin's new outlook after tasting Final Four experience
There wasn’t much time to relax. Frank Martin was recruiting, helping former assistant coach Matt Figger prepare for his first head coaching job, recovering from a sickness that seeped into the locker room in Phoenix and aiding Sindarius Thornwell and P.J. Dozier as they train for the NBA draft.
It’s like how he (respectfully, without malice to his colleagues) answered prospective players when they asked why he hadn’t been around like other coaches. Well, South Carolina was playing, and wouldn’t you like to come help them play a little longer?
But as Martin sat on the beach at Grand Cayman, his family by his side and that never-ending ocean stretching to the horizon, it finally hit him. What a month, and what a five-year journey to that month.
The Gamecocks were in the Final Four. And as a smile crept across his face, reliving Thornwell’s magnificent senior season and Chris Silva’s Sweet 16 hug and Duane Notice dunking to punch that ticket to Arizona, a bigger smile was on deck.
How much fun would it be to get back, and win, and advance to that final game?
“I’m in the weirdest place, personally, than I’ve ever been in my professional career,” Martin said Tuesday at his season-ending news conference. “After coaching on Saturday, I’ve got a fire that’s burning inside of me like it’s never burnt before, to coach on Monday.
“I told our players, ‘You guys thought I’m crazy? You don’t know what’s coming. Because I tasted something I’ve never tasted before and I want more, I don’t want less.’ ”
Martin made it clear he wasn’t satisfied with getting to the Final Four once, and wants to get back with the Gamecocks to take that final step. He doesn’t term 2017-18 a “rebuild,” because USC lost a lot of statistics. He’ll return several leaders that were along for the greatest postseason in program history.
There will be different pieces, but what’s to stop the Gamecocks from going again? Especially with the way the phone is ringing these days, players and national TV wanting another piece of USC.
“It’s all positive right now. Now we’ve got to do our jobs,” Martin said. “We have to hit the road and recruit, and try to build on the momentum that our kids gave us.”
Martin recalled standing on the court for the national anthem at the Final Four, marveling at how 76,000 people were crammed in the building to watch his guys. Quickly checking himself to drop the tourist in New York look, he dropped his gaze – and there were the coaches, many of them Hall-of-Famers, who weren’t coaching that day looking back at him.
All of it added to an incredible experience that Martin finally had time to reflect on, about how all the work that went into it paid off in a thrilling ride. But thinking about it triggered that other thought, “How good would it feel if we won it all?”
“And it might never happen,” Martin said. “I’m willing to go find out, if we can push that envelope to get to Monday one day.
“I can’t wait to go at it again.”
Freshmen David Beatty, Felipe Haase, Jason Cudd and Ibrahim Doumbia are set to report this summer, although they’ll be staggered because of their high schools holding graduation on different dates. … Martin couldn’t name any specific games that have been added to the schedule but said “national TV thinks we’re a lot better than we were a month ago. We’re getting a lot of phone calls for a lot of national TV games to be played at unbelievable platforms.” … There is no timetable for hiring an assistant coach to replace Figger, now the head coach at Austin Peay, although Martin said he’s had “deep conversations” with candidates and is in no rush to make the hire.
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState