By Rixon Lane
I get it.
The last few weeks of basketball season have not gone the way Gamecock fans have hoped. After a seven-game winning streak was capped by an upset win over 9th-ranked Iowa State, South Carolina has lost four of its last five games.
These recent results have caused some talk about Frank Martin's job security. Even Frank has chimed in, albeit harshly and sarcastically. So, let's have the conversation.
If you are a Gamecock fan who wants Frank Martin fired, tell me why. He had more overall wins and more conference wins in his first two seasons than Darrin Horn did in his last two, so the program is improving. Do you want him out because of his poor record on the road against SEC teams? Do you want him out because he's the first coach since Eddie Fogler to have losing records in his first two seasons? What is the reason?
Let's take a look how Martin's tenure has played out in Columbia.
Year One: 2012-13
In Martin's first year at South Carolina, his main players were: LaShay Page, a transfer from Southern Miss who was declared ineligible after nine games, but still ended the season as the team's leading scorer; Michael Carrera, a true freshman; Bruce Ellington, who ping-ponged back and forth between basketball and football; Lakeem Jackson, who never averaged 8.0 points per game in any of his four years, Eric Smith, who started at point guard for 27 games, then transferred to Coastal Carolina and never hit double-figures in 33 games and nine starts for the Chanticleers; and R.J. Slawson, who transferred to Jacksonville after the season.
With that core group, Martin managed to win 10 of his first 14 games, won the Hoops for Hope Classic in Mexico, and wound up winning 14 games on the year.
Following the season, four players transferred and three players graduated, meaning that Martin needed to replace seven of his 15 players for the following year.
Year Two: 2013-14
In his second season, Martin's roster consisted of seven true freshmen and a first-year transfer from Villanova (who played in less than half the games that year before being injured and missing the remainder of the season). In all, 12 of his 16 players were either freshmen or sophomores. Two of the four sophomores were walk-ons.
Martin had signed Sindarius Thornwell and Demetrius Henry, the first time the Gamecocks had brought in a pair of four-star recruits in the same class since 2010. South Carolina went on the road to a ranked Baylor team and lost by a basket, finished third in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, upset a top-20 Kentucky team at home, and advanced to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals for the first time since 2006.
Bruce Ellington and Brenton Williams graduated, leaving a hole in South Carolina's backcourt for the following year. The Gamecocks would have to likely rely on a pair of sophomores in 2014-15.
Year Three: 2014-15
So, here we are in Martin's third season. Using a roster with only one senior, the Gamecocks upset 9th-ranked Iowa State and garnered votes in the A.P. Poll for the first time since 2009 and the Coaches' Poll for the first time since 2006. If South Carolina picks up another road win this season, it'll be the first time that the Gamecocks have won multiple road games since 2010-11.
However, if you still want Frank Martin gone, who should the Gamecocks go get? Before we start, Gregg Marshall's not coming. He's coached Wichita State to five consecutive 25+ win seasons. Don't hold your breath waiting for him to arrive in Columbia.
Who could South Carolina go and get that would be able to build the Gamecocks back into a respectable basketball program quicker than what Martin is doing? I'm no expert, but there is no coach I can think of that South Carolina could bring in next season who could do better faster.
Do you want Martin gone because he yells at his players too much? Are you concerned that he is running off players? Well, after the four transfers following his first season, only two players, freshmen Jaylen Shaw and Desmond Ringer, left after the 2013-14 campaign.
If he's such a monster and unbearable, why is no one of consequence leaving? Why did a player like Thornwell sign with the Gamecocks? With the addition of P.J. Dozier, Martin will have signed a four-star talent for three consecutive seasons. He must be doing something right with his players.
Look, South Carolina isn't going to be competing for a national championship in men's basketball in the near future. The Gamecocks are slowly improving and still have a long way to go. South Carolina is an offensively-challenged basketball team and must improve before there are able to make a significant run in the SEC.
So, before you say that Frank Martin's tenure has run its course in Columbia, go to a quiet place, take some deep breaths, and honestly ask yourself this question...
...are you really mad at Frank Martin or are you mad at this guy?