Allen Edwards can’t recall the first time he was welcomed to Frank Martin’s hard coaching style. He’ll just never forget the most dramatic of memories.
It was 1991 and Edwards, long before he became Wyoming’s head basketball coach, was a guard on the junior varsity squad at Miami Senior High School. Details on the mistake Edwards made remain unclear, but he did something during a game that triggered his coach.
A 24-year-old Martin, barking from the sideline, ordered Edwards to disappear.
“He got pissed at me and told me to go take off my uniform or whatever,” Edwards recalled Tuesday morning. “And I ended up going to take off my uniform and going into the locker room. And he gave me a nice butt-chewing.”
Edwards went on to win two national championships at Kentucky and then spent three seasons in professional ball.
Turns out his booting from Miami Senior lasted less than 24 hours.
“That next day was a brand new day,” Edwards said. “We met at school, sat down, he called me in to talk and then everything was fine.
“So that’s the type of coach he is. It wasn’t like he let it linger on. In the moment, I probably did something and he reacted and, for that second, he kicked me off. The next day, we talked and we were fine and I was back on the team.”
Nearly three decades later, heart-to-heart discussions between Edwards and Martin continue. The two will reunite Wednesday evening at Colonial Life Arena when the Cowboys (6-2) face South Carolina (6-2).
The game keeps alive a theme for USC this nonconference season: Martin, whether it be seeing old friends at Florida International or connecting with former players in New York, stays surrounded by familiar faces.
“It just shows his loyalty and his love to the people that show loyalty and love to him,” said Carolina senior guard Frank Booker. “Coach Frank is a very loyal person, and that’s something that you can’t really see in everybody that you cross. And it shows that everybody in his life that he keeps around, they’re there for a reason.
“I just think it’s really interesting to see his path and where he came from and things like that. It just shows why he does certain things, and it’s just very interesting.”
Edwards symbolizes Martin’s winding road through the profession. Martin coached Edwards’ older brothers — Doug, now a member of USC’s staff, and Steve — before showing a similar passion for Allen.
“I’ve always complimented him on his path,” Edwards said. “A lot of people see Frank now as the head coach of South Carolina, even now a Final Four head coach. But he started from the bottom, essentially taking 11-year-old kids, going and playing tournaments in the city of Miami. … As you look 30 years later, you’re saying, ‘Man, that guy is successful.’ Well, he put in his time, he put in his work. So that’s just a testament to watching him over the years.
“I’m probably understanding it a little bit more now as an adult versus a teenager or a young adolescent.”
Junior forward Chris Silva is USC’s most accomplished player. The preseason All-SEC pick leads the Gamecocks in points, rebounds and blocks.
But as Silva continues his bout with foul trouble, Martin hasn’t been shy in expressing his irritation with the 6-foot-9, 223-pounder.
“Chris is a great kid,” Martin said. “Don’t take that as me trying to be critical of Chris. But I’m frustrated with him in his inability to grow in that department.”
Silva’s been around Martin long enough to understand his methods. Spotting Martin’s embraces with the likes of Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley last week only confirmed it.
“That’s just the way he is,” Silva said. “Our coach is loyal, he’s the most loyal guy I’ve ever seen. You just got to know, with time, you get to know him.
“Like when you just get here, you’re a freshman, you don’t really know him, you think he’s hard guy. But with time, you get to know him and he’s a really nice guy and the most loyal person I’ve ever seen.”
Martin once threw Edwards off a team. Tuesday night, they shared a microphone at a Columbia Tip-Off Club event.
“Real proud of him,” Martin said.
Wyoming (6-2) at USC (6-2)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
How to watch: SEC Network Plus/WatchESPN app