Defenders of Frank Martin, a shrinking subset of South Carolina Gamecock fans, remind us that coaches frequently cuss behind the scenes.
Sure, from high school to the NBA. But Martin's verbal takedown of freshman guard Duane Notice during Tuesday night's 26-point home loss to No. 1 Florida was out front for everyone to see.
Who knows what goes on behind the scenes with a basketball coach who continually wastes in-game adjustment opportunities on his lack of self-control?
Ray Tanner, the South Carolina athletic director and two-time national championship winning baseball coach, is loyal.
To a fault.
His suspension of Martin for Saturday's battle of the SEC's two worst teams at Mississippi State is a brushback pitch thrown with good cause.
The school should take an extra three steps:
Place Martin on probation until he cleans up his expletive act.
Extend the suspension to the SEC Tournament as part of four weeks of temper management classes - for Martin's own good.
Serve notice (and Notice) that with the next violation similar to Tuesday's incident, he's fired.
Martin, the Gamecocks' second-year head coach, has been reprimanded twice this year for tearing into a player during a game. He apologized in January for screaming profanely at senior guard Brenton Williams in a home loss to Mississippi.
It's one thing to have a slip-up or two when you're winning - not that glitzy rankings excuse boorish behavior.
It's quite another to attract negative attention to go with an 8-27 record in SEC games.
This kind of stuff doesn't go over well with Gamecock fans who have seen Tanner, Steve Spurrier, Dawn Staley and Chad Holbrook win big without calling players unprintable things in public. Or, as Tanner said in his official statement addressing Martin's suspension, using "inappropriate verbal communication as it relates to the well-being of our student-athletes."
Martin, the players and the South Carolina administration should have known what they were getting into.
The Gamecocks are a major rebuilding job, requiring patience.
Players and recruits must know about the crazy Kansas State videos of Martin tirades on youtube.
Former South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman had to know Martin infamously struck a Kansas State player during a 2010 game.
Martin hit senior Chris Merriewether on the arm with the back of his hand during a timeout late in a loss to Missouri.
"That's a mistake on my part," Martin said at the time. "I'm an old-school guy, but I understand the times are real sensitive now. I love him. I don't know what to tell you. It's wrong on my part and is completely out of line and has no part in the game. I need to apologize for that."
By the way, Frank Martin apologizes a lot.
Still, it seemed like a coup when Hyman hired Martin two years ago.
Martin led Kansas State to the NCAA Tournament four times in five seasons. This ought to be encouraging to Gamecock fans looking forward to next year: Kansas State in Martin's third year as head coach improved from an NIT team to a 29-8 juggernaut that reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Martin publicly ripped Gamecock players last season - before running some of them off. But he did so with a trace of humor, however rehearsed.
"If you take Bruce Ellington off our team, you'd probably have the 12 leading candidates for the starring roles in 'The Return of the Living Dead,' the zombie movie," Martin said just after an ugly home loss to LSU. "If you took Bruce off our team, our guys would probably win an Academy (Award) for their performance in that movie."
That wasn't all.
"I've been doing this for 28 years, nine of which as a junior varsity high school coach," Martin went on. "That means I've dealt with 14-year-olds. I've never been more embarrassed to call myself a basketball coach than I am today."
So he got some new players, like Notice.
And he had a full year to develop other players, like Williams.
Tanner declined to elaborate on Martin's suspension, but was asked last year about Martin's 2012 explosions.
"I would never criticize him, because I know him and I know where his heart is and I know how much he cares," Tanner said. "I did say to him one time, 'Don't be so hard on yourself.' He is so passionate that sometimes it gets the best of him. But that's his passion."
If Martin doesn't watch his mouth, his passion will lead him out of South Carolina.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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