USC's Frank Martin touches on tournament run and recruitment in Spartanburg
South Carolina coach Frank Martin was in Spartanburg on Thursday, making his first public appearance in the Upstate since leading the Gamecocks into the Sweet 16 with two wins in Greenville and, eventually, to the Final Four.
Martin had a meet-and-greet with fans and signed autographs while repeatedly being thanked for leading the Gamecocks on a magical Final Four run. He then was given a standing ovation before taking the microphone at The Lodge at Lake Bowen Commons and speaking to the crowd of nearly 200.
In Martin’s first stop on his spring tour around the state, he said he was thankful for the growing fan support his program has received throughout his tenure.
“The excitement from the fans for our team, our program, that’s been building for the past five years,” Martin said. “Maybe some people meet different fans than me. The ones I meet are extremely excited about how our guys play, thankful for what our guys do and how they represent the university, who they are in the community and then, obviously, for winning games.”
Lee Thornton, the Spartanburg County Gamecock Club president, said he was thankful for the opportunity to host Martin in the Upstate and added that fans in the area enjoyed every moment of the Final Four run.
“We always like to have events like this here and get fans together. It’s nice to do things like this in the community, especially with so much Clemson attention in the Upstate. It’s really great,” Thornton said. “I think people are excited and people are really going to be looking forward to basketball season next year.”
Martin has had a busy month since USC’s season ended April 1.
He helped seniors and sophomore guard PJ Dozier begin preparing for a pro career, helped assistant Matt Figger land his first head coaching job with Austin Peay and has been on the road recruiting.
Still, he has found time to reflect on the run his team made while trying to prepare to make another one.
“It hasn’t stopped. That’s a great thing. There’s not as much separation from the end of the season to doing all these things like you usually have. That’s a good problem to have,” Martin said. “While you’re still working, you have to continue to build. You have to be ready for the next day. I know I’m real proud. I’m real proud of our guys, but I don’t know if I’ll ever sit back and enjoy. If I sit back and enjoy, there’s another team that’s going to pass us, and I’m not going to have a lot of fun with that.”
Martin believes South Carolina’s program is in good shape to continue to build fan support and to continue to win, despite losing Dozier, Sindarius Thornwell, Justin McKie and Duane Notice.
“I understand we had a fun run in the NCAA tournament and we accomplished something that had never been done in the school before, but we set a school record for wins the year before. We averaged 14,000 people a game this year. That’s because our fans had started to buy in two or three years ago, and they’ve continued to buy in,” Martin said. “Our average attendance this year was not based on our Final Four run. It was based on the team that we’ve become over the last four years. I’m always excited to get out and meet fans and spend time with them and thank them for the way I just drove up here, for them driving down there on a midweek night to support our team.”