Not only was it special for the University of South Carolina to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, but for the first time in school history they ended up winning two, both of which in Greensville, South Carolina.
Gamecocks head coach Frank Martin joined The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday and said beating Marquette and national powerhouse Duke was even bigger than the University.
“That was a powerful, powerful moment for our state. A year and half ago we couldn’t even host an NCAA Tournament game, event and now we can,” Martin said. “Our state university, South Carolina, hadn’t been in the tournament since ’04. Now we get put in there, and we get put in the site in our state, and then lastly, we’ve been fighting to build a program and build basketball and continued to move people forward, and we win a game for the first time in 44 years in the tournament.
“So it was a powerful, powerful moment for our kids, our state, our community, our alum, and it kind of validated to everyone that’s been in our locker room, former players, present players that what we’ve been working for for five years was all worth it.”
Martin talked about the emotions of seeing Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski signaling for his players not to foul in the last minute of their win 88-81 win, a sign of the Hall of Famer’s class in defeat.
“I saw the motion to not foul, and I looked up and I saw the clock under 15 and that’s when it hit me,” Martin said. “I was like wow, we’re actually going to do this, and it was powerful. Unbelievable moment for me personally in my life, and then Coach K shook my hand, and said Frank, you got a great team and you’re building something special at South Carolina, and for him to say that is as big a complement as anyone has ever paid me.”
The win brought the fiery coach to tears, but Martin said it wasn’t about who they beat that made it special. It was about the players who have bought in to the program over the past five seasons.
“I put everything I got into helping guys understand. See we’ve gotten to a place in society to where we think that we’re supposed to make things easy for kids and then when they fail as men, we blame them,” Martin said. “Life is great, but life is not easy and we’re failing our young people, and that’s my belief, and that’s why I coach the way I do, and I demand that they do things the right way and I chase them around because I want them to find success. Being successful is hard. It’s not an easy thing. And those kids have learned to work. They come out every single day and they lay it on the line and I do feel that moment, it wasn’t beating Duke that brings tears to my eyes, it’s to see those kids continue to grow up that is where that emotion came from, and when you got three seniors that have been with you every step of the way, it makes it a powerful moment.”