COLUMBIA — After he ?talked for nearly an hour ?Tuesday at his introductory press conference, new South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin said something that perhaps best captured his challenge in the coming months as he takes over a struggling program.
The details of Frank Martin’s contract with South Carolina: GUARANTEED PAYYear 1: $1.9 million Year 2: $2.0 million Years 3-6: $2.1 million NOTABLE BONUSES* $15,000 for nine or more SEC regular-season wins in Year 1, 10 or more regular-season wins in Year 2 and 12 or more regular-season wins in Years 3-6. * $25,000 for making NCAA tournament * $50,000 if season ticket sales increase by 1,000 or more over previous season * $15,000 if four or more regular season home games have turnstile attendance of 16,000-plus (The ticket-related bonuses are cumulative, so Martin could collect both.) BUYOUTSIf Martin leaves USC before the end of his contract, he owes USC the following amount should he leave on before March 31 of each year: 2013 ... $4 million 2014 ... $3 million 2015 ... $1.5 million 2016 ... $800,000 2017 ... $500,000 2018 ... $500,000 If USC fires Martin for losing, it will pay him 66 percent of his guaranteed pay per year for the remaining term of the contract, which will be $1.386 million per year by the time he is making $2.1 million in Years 3-6. Darrin Horn’s buyout was $800,000 for each year left on his deal, and he was making $1.1 million annually at the end of his time at USC — 72 percent.
He stood in front of a small group of media at Colonial Life Arena when the press conference ended and considered a question about the reception he expects to receive from the players.
“I don’t expect them to sit there and trust me just because I’ve been hired,” he said. “Now is when my job begins.”
Martin received a six-year contract that will pay him ?$1.9 million in the first year, ?$2 million in the second and $2.1 million in the final three years. USC will also pay Kansas ?State the $1 million buyout for Martin leaving before the end of his contract. USC owes Horn a $2.4 million buyout. Horn made $1.1 million in his final season.
For all the stories Martin told Tuesday about disciplining and molding kids — while winning the press conference, as they say — he understands better than anyone that a far more important and tougher task will be convincing players, present and future.
He must convince the current roster, which loses just one player, that his intense style will work. He must convince recruits that they can come to USC and win, something the Gamecocks have done rarely in recent years, as they endured losing records in the final three of fired coach Darrin Horn’s four seasons.
This time around, athletic director Eric Hyman hired a more proven coach than Horn was in 2008. In five seasons at Kansas State, Martin made four NCAA tournaments, including one trip to the Elite Eight in 2010.
Winning in Manhattan, Kan., is a challenge, as it will be at USC. But Martin started with a much stronger foundation at Kansas State, where he won at least 20 games every year, than he will start with in Columbia. The year before Martin took over for Bob Huggins, the Wildcats went 23-12 and had locked up the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the next year’s class, Michael Beasley. USC went 10-21 last year, and its lone incoming recruit is not regarded nearly as highly.
While Huggins left Martin with plenty, Martin stamped the Wildcats as his own and made his Elite Eight run without Beasley or fellow one-and-done star recruit Bill Walker, who is in the NBA along with Beasley. Martin got the Wildcats to thrive under his demanding approach, which can manifest itself in maniacal sideline outbursts and intimidating glares at players — a look that became so iconic in Manhattan that it wound up on Kansas State’s promotional billboards.
Martin spent a good deal of his press conference happily talking about that style, which he believes can work even though some argue that elite players have been coddled for so long that they will chafe at such an approach.
“I think the misconception out there is that we blame kids for lacking discipline,” he said. “Don’t blame kids. It’s us adults who don’t hold kids accountable that teach them how to not be disciplined. That’s a battle that I’ll never stop fighting. I understand that I appear to be different in today’s society, because I’m a little passionate and I’m not scared to be honest. I tell kids all the time, ‘If you have a bad practice, it’s my job to tell you (that) you had a bad practice.’ ”
While teaching and coaching from 1985-2000 at three high schools in inner-city Miami, where he grew up, Martin said he learned “those kids want that discipline. When you give them that discipline, they might resist you at first, but they’re trying to see if you’re being real with them.”
Martin said he will take the coming days to determine which, if any, members of Horn’s staff he will retain. He also plans to meet with point guard Bruce Ellington, who decided Tuesday that he will play basketball and football again next season.
Martin dismissed reports that conflicts with Kansas State athletic director John Currie are what led to him leaving for USC, and Currie said essentially the same thing at a press conference in Manhattan. It is an interesting, and perhaps curious, leap for Martin, going from a steady program to a floundering one that he hopes to shape in his image.
Martin said he made it for one reason.
“I love challenges,” he said. “Some people run away from challenges. I run to challenges. I’ve been doing it my whole life, so I get excited about it. ... I don’t promise things. Five-year plan, three-year plan — as an old high school coach, I used to sit there and see that. I never understood what that meant.”
A few moments later, however, he did promise one thing.
“Our guys will be known as the hardest-playing team in America,” he said.