South Carolina had not even won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973 two weeks ago, but today the Miami native Frank Martin led the school to its first Final Four. The unlikely run continued with the Gamcocks 77-70 win over Florida in the Elite Eight. The fifty one-year old Martin coached High School Basketball in Dade County for 15 years before becoming a college assistant in 2000 at Northeastern in Boston. He became a Head Coach with Kansas State in 2007, and led the school, a historic powerhouse to its first NCAA Tournament in 12 years in his first season on the job.
In 2011, when the University of Miami head coaching job came open, school President Dr. Donna Shalala declined to interview Martin, a Miami native who would have taken the job. George Mason’s Jim Larranaga was hired instead. The move was controversial at the time among the Hurricane fan base, many of whom wanted Martin. But in six seasons in Coral Gables Larranaga has won an ACC Regular Season title, an ACC Tournament title, made the NCAA Sweet 16 twice and lost the 2015 NIT Final to Stanford in overtime.
Martin moved to South Carolina in 2012 where he inherited a terrible program, one of the worst in major conference college basketball. While it took Martin five seasons to even guide South Carolina to the NCAA Tournament, they’ve made the most of this appearance. It’s vindication for Martin who after being snubbed by Miami left Kansas State, an established program for one in the SEC that was among the weakest in the conference. For some Hurricane fans, it may rekindle a conversation that was long forgotten, though Larranaga’s record at Miami has been outstanding and UM is now considered by many a stronger basketball program than football program.
Good luck to Frank Martin and South Carolina in the Final Four!