Martin eager to take on South Carolina challenge

By Pete Iacobelli

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Prepare for "The Stare" at South Carolina games next season.

The Gamecocks hired fiery Frank Martin from Kansas State to re-energize a program that had dropped to the bottom of the Southeastern Conference.

Martin spoke for nearly an hour in front of several hundred fans, media and South Carolina administrators. Afterwards, he was asked to demonstrate his harsh, laser-like stare, which was a featured attraction at Wildcat games the past five years.

"It's something that happens when it's time to compete," Martin said, laughing.

Martin says the time for the Gamecocks to compete is now.

He told the players Tuesday morning that they weren't far off from SEC success, despite going 10-21 and 2-14 in the league this season.

"I've got to figure out a way, and that's my job, to get them the confidence that they need to win that next game," Martin said.

Not that it will be easy.

The Gamecocks lose their leading scorer in senior Malik Cooke. Their No. 2 scorer, point guard Bruce Ellington, is reconsidering his decision to give up football and continue to play both sports like he did this past year.

Martin will have two scholarships to use for next year's club and possibly three if Ellington rejoins the football team. The new coach says he's already begun tapping recruiting contacts.

"We're on it already," he said.

Martin doesn't have to rush. He got a six-year deal worth $12.3 million. He'll make $1.9 million this fall, a step up from his salary of about $1.4 million with the Wildcats.

South Carolina also agreed to pay Martin's $1 million buyout at Kansas State.

South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman spoke with former coaches, players, the NCAA and administrators in the search for a new coach to replace Darrin Horn.

"Quite frankly, we feel like we've got the right person," he said.

Martin, 46, called it a whirlwind courtship with South Carolina that really took off this weekend while the coach was in New York helping CBS Sports with its coverage of the NCAA tournament. Martin joked that he had basketball studio analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Greg Anthony urging him to take the job before he left.

"That's how much respect people have for South Carolina basketball," Martin said.

Martin was 117-54 in five years with the Wildcats. They reached the NCAA regional finals in 2010 and lost to Syracuse in the third round this season.

Martin thanked everyone at Kansas State and discounted any rift with Wildcat athletic director John Currie for the decision to leave. Martin was upset that the school suspended forward Jamar Samuels for the Wildcats' NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse.

However, "that administration has been phenomenal. I can't be more thankful for how that administration treated us. They gave us what we needed," Martin said.

Kansas coach Bill Self, Martin's Big 12 Conference rival, said the coach would be missed.

"Our league will miss him. I'm sure people in Manhattan (Kan.) will, too," Self said. "He was nothing but good things for our basketball league."

Now, the SEC has another outsized personality to matchup with league heavyweights like Kentucky's John Calipari and Florida's Billy Donovan. Martin said he got a text from his friend, Alabama coach Anthony Grant, that read, "Frank, our league just got better."

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