You have to admire the willingness to frequently fly. But when athletic directors Eric Hyman and Joe Hull dropped the "national search" commitment in recent college basketball news conferences, they didn't really mean it.

Hyman, tasked with finding a South Carolina head coach better than the dismissed Darrin Horn, surely isn't scouring the wooded trails of New England, open country of Wyoming or Pacific Coast highways for leadership skills.

Hull, aiming to maintain or upgrade the momentum Bobby Cremins had going at the College of Charleston before retiring Monday, implied a sea-to-shining sea successor search. Probably minus New Jersey, Indiana or hardwood west of the Mississippi.

Maybe not west of Goose Creek.

You never hear athletic directors vow to embark on a "local search." But Hull certainly doesn't have to leave South Carolina or its two beautiful border states to find six intriguing candidates. Location and Sweet 16 timing give Hyman options almost as convenient.

The Cougar Cost-Cutter Coach Search plan:

--Mark Byington. The College of Charleston assistant has Cremins' support, and Cremins will stay on in some kind of fundraising role. President George Benson made a habit of slipping into Byington's postgame news conferences during the interim head coach phase, and left each one impressed.

Local options

--Anthony Johnson. The former Stall High School, Cougars and NBA guard is working the room for support. And deserves it.

--Barclay Radebaugh. The Charleston Southern head coach is eager and worthy.

--Steve Robinson. North Carolina's top assistant would get a blessing (and probably schedule favors) from Roy Williams. He fared well as a head coach at Tulsa, not so well at Florida State. But Robinson makes approximately $300,000 at UNC (plus other perks), more than what Charleston was paying Cremins.

--Mike Young. Most people assume the 2010 and 2011 Southern Conference champion is a Wofford lifer. But worth a call.

--Darrin Horn? His tenacious defense worked at Western Kentucky.

Which brings us back to South Carolina. Hyman's search might cost more, but he has a bigger job opening to fill, a gig better than it presently looks.

Reported candidates are former College of Charleston assistant and Winthrop head coach Gregg Marshall, coming off his first NCAA tournament appearance at Wichita State, and Kevin Stallings, who just led Vanderbilt to an SEC tournament title.

When Eddie Fogler was hired in 1993, he was Marshall and Stallings rolled into one; Fogler led Wichita State to two NCAA tournament appearances and was coming off an SEC regular season title at Vanderbilt.

Kansas State head coach Frank Martin apparently is a possibility. He looks like a bouncer. Acts like a bouncer. Actually worked as a bouncer in Miami, where he grew up as the son of Cuban immigrants.

Call Scott Drew

Marshall, Stallings and Martin all sound like swell ideas, a cut above Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker and Duke assistants Steve Wojciechowski, Chris Collins and Jeff Capel.

With Hyman's Texas connections tied to his tenure as TCU athletic director, you have to think Baylor's Scott Drew is a consideration.

Hey, what a break. Baylor is in Atlanta for tonight's Sweet 16 game against Xavier. Drew makes the most sense for South Carolina, but costs the most dollars.

Marshall, with a history of winning and a chip on his shoulder Gamecock fans will embrace, evidently just turned down a $2 million-per-year offer to coach at Nebraska.

But with a three-for-one interview option at Duke and Scott Drew in Atlanta, Hyman can save big travel bucks all around. Simply meet with Marshall and Martin at a Kansas halfway point between Wichita and Manhattan. You know, like Cottonwood Falls. With a stopover in Nashville to hang out with Stallings.

Saving money on the coach search allows extra cash for the new salary. After all, with Missouri and Texas A&M coming in, South Carolina does not want to be the first basketball program in SEC history to enter the conference tournament as a No. 14 seed.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or; @sapakoff.