South Carolina’s Frank Martin admits he didn’t coach the basketball well last season. He also feels that his track record shows that he knows how to turn things around.
I didn’t do well this year, Martin said Thursday after a 6-15 season for the Gamecocks, his worst performance in 14 years coaching at Kansas State and South Carolina.
South Carolina could never find its rhythm, and Martin admitted he couldn’t help his players get into the right groove.
We have a job, man, he said. What happened last year was unacceptable. I think I’ll bet on myself to find out.
The coronavirus pandemic certainly played a role. There were two program shutdowns during the 41-day period in which the Gamecocks only played twice and did not have a full team to practice due to medical protocols.
Martin has tested positive for COVID-19 twice since May, the second time for the more serious disease during a rest period in South Carolina in January.
Martin remains confident that he can continue to work. He has done this before, he noted. He led a South Carolina team that last played in the SEC the year before his arrival in 2013 to the Final Four in 2017. At 18-13, the Gamecocks were on the NCAA Tournament bubble in 2020 before Pandemic cancelled the event.
Last week, he gave himself some breathing room to do just that by extending his contract by two years, which ties him to the program through the 2024-25 season. There was no increase. Moreover, if Martin’s $6.5 million severance pay were to be fired now, it would be invalid if the school fired him two years later.
Is this the contract I wanted? No, Martin said. But if they didn’t want me here, they could have fired me.
Martin said he had long and frank conversations with athletics director Ray Tanner about why things went wrong last season. Tanner said he was confident Martin had a plan to resolve the situation and recommended an extension to school president Bob Kaslen.
I think it was a decision we made together that was in the best interest of the university, Kaslen said earlier this week.
The new contract comes after South Carolina was placed on two years probation in February for bribing former assistant coach Lamont Evans.
Martin will have another team to help him win again. Five members of the team, including fourth-year Justin Minaya, entered the transfer gate.
The Gamecocks added four transfers, led by 6-foot-6 guard Eric Stephenson, who will transfer to his Division I school after two seasons at Wichita State and Washington last season.
Two starters and double-digit scorers, forward Keyshawn Bryant and point guard Jermaine Quisnard, have been included in the NBA Draft but have not yet signed a contract. Martin said both have participated in offseason training and he expects them to return.
Last season’s top scorer, AJ Lawson, will need more time to determine his plans for 2021-22. He averaged 16.6 points per game in the 2020-21 season. Since Lawson has been evaluated by the NBA the past two seasons, Martin said he has no chance of returning this time around if he decides to go pro.
He’s careful, Martin said.
Martin didn’t care about speculation that he would be fired or that he was scanning coaching positions to get another job. He said he never intended to leave, but used the last month to figure out how to fix what went wrong.
I’m not fooled by innuendo. He told me not to fall for the fake stories. This month frustrated me because I wasn’t doing my job, not because of anything else.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.