Frank Martin doesn’t want to hear the word ‘soft’ about past Gamecocks schedules
Frank Martin had a bunch to say after South Carolina’s 69-52 loss to No. 3 Virginia on Wednesday.
He raved about UVa’s offensive efficiency. He updated the injury status of Maik Kotsar and T.J. Moss. He applauded the effort of freshman forward Alanzo Frink.
And he got into schedule strategy and media coverage.
That’s where things got the most heated.
Question: Frank, a couple years ago, the knock on this program was, quote, too easy. Barely missing the NCAA Tournament because of the easy schedule. Now, it seems like it’s almost on the opposite end. I’m wondering, since you’ve been doing this for so long, is it worth it in the end to schedule such tough opponents? And what can these guys learn by going up against top 10 teams back-to-back ...
Context: The Gamecocks missed the Big Dance in 2015-16 despite a 24-8 record and third place finish in the SEC. They played the nation’s 81st-toughest schedule that year, according to KenPom.com. This season, USC has already played No. 5 Michigan and No. 3 Virginia. Clemson (8-3) comes to CLA on Saturday to face Carolina (4-6).
Martin: “The only thing that continues to bother me about coaching at the University of South Carolina is when we have to continue to answer questions about my team scheduling soft. I’ve never scheduled soft. We scheduled real basketball schools (Tulsa, Clemson, St. John’s, Memphis in the non-conference) that year. It’s not my fault their players transferred and they ended up having bad years.
“Like the schedule this year, we didn’t put it together in August once we realized our personnel, the schedule was put together two years ago, just like the schedule two years ago was put together two years before that.
“We, and I’m including you guys (the media) because we’re all on the same team here, we have to stop telling the news and the people that we scheduled soft. There’s nothing soft in my body, how I was raised, how I live, how I’ve ever coached. Go back and look at the schedules I put together as a head high school coach. I don’t believe in soft. Anything soft and me are never getting along. So please, stop, you guys who cover our team, please stop. It’s disrespectful to me, so please stop. The national media don’t say our schedule is soft. You guys say soft, not the national media. So stop. I’m done with the soft stuff. I’ve answered this a hundred times, I’m done with you guys saying that we schedule soft.
“At K-State we scheduled ... Do you know what our strength of schedule was last year? 27. (30, according to KenPom.) Does that sound soft to you? Stop with the soft stuff, man. I don’t live soft, I’m not soft, I don’t want nothing soft around me.
“We’ve worked real hard to build a program here that’s had four winning seasons for the first time in a gazillion years. We worked real hard to do that. We don’t do that by being soft. We don’t do that by scheduling easy. We’ve done that because we’ve scheduled hard, we go out and take on challenges, we’ve beaten top-10 teams, we lined up and we go, not because we do things soft.
“So whoever you’re quoting, tell that person that I said that they need to stop that. No. This schedule is put together two years ago, this schedule is not put together in August. This schedule is meant to be hard every year. That’s why last year’s was 27.”
Before the news conference ended, Martin followed up on his first rant — and added his reasons for why he felt there was a pro-Virginia vibe to the season-high crowd of 12,291.
Martin: “We continue to speak on that negativity, and it’s hard for me to overcome. That’s why we got more Virginia fans than South Carolina fans in our game today. This reminded me of my first year here, when we’re out-numbered. And that’s because we continue to put out the wording on stories pertaining to our team that makes everybody think that we’re not good enough. That’s insulting to me. Because we’ve all, you guys and us, have worked too hard to give this school a program that’s worthy of lining up against the No. 3 team.
“When’s the last time a No. 3 team in the country came into South Carolina for a non-conference game? When’s the last time an ACC school other than Clemson came to this building for a non-conference game? We’ve worked real hard to make those things happen.
“So when I hear negative (connotation) about things that have taken place here before this year — you want to say I don’t know what I’m doing this year, I get it. We stink. We’re not playing well — but for anyone to refer back to the work that’s been done with a negative (connotation), I don’t, that’s not my deal. We need to change the (rhetoric), we need to change the wording of what we’ve done, so our fans get excited, so they understand I got a bunch of young bucks that are fighting their tails off to give us what we deserve, that I’m not happy with right now, but they’re fighting to give us what we deserve.
“Do you think we go to Virginia next year, do you really think we’re going to outnumber their fans? That used to happen almost every game my first year.”
Context: Martin’s 2017-18 team went 17-16, giving USC four straight winning seasons for the first time since 1977-81. The Gamecocks went 43 years between NCAA Tournament wins before the Final Four run in ‘17.