If you’ve never heard of South Carolina Gamecocks head basketball coach Frank Martin, just know one thing: the man can coach college basketball. After five seasons leading the Kansas State Wildcats to four NCAA Tournament berths with one Elite Eight appearance, the 2010 Big 12 Coach of the Year was hired to take over the downtrodden Southeastern Conference program in Columbia, South Carolina in 2012.
In his fifth season, Martin guided SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell and the Gamecocks to the school’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1973. As a true Cinderella story, the 7th-seed would advance to the school’s first-ever Final Four that year before losing to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
He can coach with the best of them, but Martin’s loud and abrasive style has created plenty of controversy along the way.
In 2014, Martin was suspended for USC’s regular-season finale for “inappropriate verbal communication” with his players during a loss to top-ranked Florida.
One look at that video, though, and this pales in comparison to the optics of Martin’s outburst on Tuesday night.
In a loss to (oddly enough) the Florida Gators, the 53-year-old head coach was caught shoving freshman Jalyn McCreary late in the first half. Martin addressed the incident during his postgame press conference when he nonchalantly brushed off the incident.
South Carolina’s Frank Martin Shoves Player
“You talking about when I told him to check in the game and there was a 30-second timeout? He was walking and I kind of shoved him to the [scorer’s table]. That’s exactly what happened. People are mad? That’s what happened. Maybe next time I’ll hug him and carry him, put him at the table and say, ‘Please tell them you’re checking in the game.'”
— USC head coach Frank MartinAdvertisement
The University of South Carolina does not appear ready to suspend Martin for his actions, but that didn’t stop fans on social media from questioning Martin’s tough love.
Others, like former South Carolina baseball player T.J. Hopkins, understood exactly the kind of urgency Martin needed to see from his freshman and defended the Gamecocks coach.
“Being around some of the basketball guys back in the day they look at Coach M more than a coach. It’s a respect thing and trust where this shouldn’t be a problem. It sucks that this is what it comes to. One day coaches aren’t gonna be able to raise their voice. Unreal”
— T.J. Hopkins, via Twitter
The Gamecocks (8-6, 0-1) dropped their SEC opener to the Gators (10-4, 2-0) by the final score of 81-68. Florida sophomore Andrew Nembhard led all players with 21 points and 10 assists. South Carolina was paced by Maik Kotsar’s first double-double of the season (18 points, 10 rebounds).
Aside from Martin’s shove, some fans were also upset freshman point guard Trae Hannibal did not play in the second half after scoring four points in a two-minute span earlier in the game.
As SEC play gets underway, Frank Martin and his basketball team need to right the ship or be in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for a third-straight season.