Copyright 2014 The Post and Courier
All Rights Reserved
For 23 hours, 59 minutes and 48 seconds each day, South Carolina men's basketball coach Frank Martin feels pretty good about himself as a person.
It's those other 12 seconds that Martin says he needs to work on.
A remorseful Martin addressed the media Friday afternoon, apologizing to his family, current and former players, Gamecock fans and South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner for his verbal abuse of a player during Tuesday s loss to top-ranked Florida.
"I don't speak like that all day," Martin said. "There might be 12 seconds during the day that something comes out of my mouth that shouldn't. I've got to work on those 12 seconds. I think I offer people a lot of good the other time of the day."
Martin was suspended for the Gamecocks regular season finale at Mississippi State on Saturday for inappropriate verbal communication with freshman guard Duane Notice during the Florida game. Associate head coach Matt Figger served as acting head coach for the Gamecocks in Starkville, Miss.
During the 30-minute press conference held at Williams-Brice Stadium, Martin called his behavior disappointing and ignorant.
"I understand that I represent this university and I have a duty to conduct myself in a certain way," he said. "I understand that. As soon as the game was over I was uncomfortable with what happened. I know what I do and I know what I say. I called (Tanner) to apologize because I let him down."
Martin said he supported Tanner's decision to suspend him.
"He acted like the great leader he is in trying to resolve something that was embarrassing the university," Martin said. "He didn't act based on one situation, and he and I have been in a constant dialogue the last five or six months on things he wants to do to help me become a better coach. And I couldn't be more thankful that he is my boss."
ESPNU cameras caught Martin directing profanity at Notice during a timeout midway through the second half of South Carolina's loss Tuesday against No. 1 Florida at Colonial Life Arena.
"I'm extremely disappointed in my ignorant actions that have impacted our team in a negative way," Martin said. "For 30 years, I've gotten on the bus and gotten off the bus and stood up and fought with my guys."
This wasn't the first time that Martin has blown up at a player during a game this season. In January, Martin apologized following an incident with senior guard Brenton Williams during a one-point home loss to Ole Miss.
"My passion for people is my greatest asset, but that passion also becomes a weakness at times," Martin said. "I care about my players, my past players. I worry about my players. That's my challenge. That's something that I have to work on every day. No one has more faults than me. The hardest thing to do is to work on your own faults."
ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg said Martin's occasional outbursts don't represent the type of relationship he has with his players.
"Frank is going to coach his players hard, but what the average fan doesn t see is the relationship he has with his players off the court, the trust he's earned and the equity he's built up," said Greenberg, who has known Martin for many years. "I'm not condoning his behavior. I'm not condoning his outburst. That's something he's got to deal with in the context of his athletic director and his department. But for anyone to think that Frank Martin does not genuinely love and care for his players is unrealistic. His relationship with those players is built on trust and it's more than meets the eye."
Jay Bilas, also a basketball analysts with ESPN, said Martin's suspension was justified, added that the coach must clean up his act.
"I'm a big believer in Frank Martin as a person and as a coach," Bilas said. "He's a smart guy. He doesn't need to use the kind of language he did to get his point across. I think he made it a little personal and I think he realizes that he shouldn't have done that."
Martin said he gave up using profanity during his final season at Kansas State. He said he had tried to make the same commitment at South Carolina, but hasn't been able to follow through with it.
"A new job with different expectations and different challenges kind of made me stray away from a commitment that I had to myself," Martin said.
The Gamecocks second-year coach said he discourages his players from using profanity.
"If my players swear in my presence I'm not happy about it," Martin said. "I ask them to mature and I need to mature."
Martin didn't make the trip to Starkville for Saturday's game. Instead, he'll travel to Tennessee to watch his daughter in a cheerleading competition. The hardest part of the suspension, Martin admitted, was talking to his son about it.
"When my little guy found out that he and I were not going to go to Mississippi because of something I did, that was a real, real difficult moment for me," Martin said. "When a child says something to you, it is a lot more powerful than when some adult sends it to you in an email."
Martin said he believes he still has the respect of his players and their parents.
"I live for moments like the one I had with Brenton Williams' father the other day," Martin said. "Here's a young man that I didn't recruit, but his father shook my hand and looked me dead in the eyes and said, 'Thank you for helping my son become a man.'
"I live for that moment. I know I can do that without being aggressive for 12 seconds on the sideline. I've got to be able to manage that dynamic in my personality."
Former South Carolina stars Larry Davis and Melvin Watson said they believe Martin can lead the program back to prominence.
"I definitely think he s the right guy for the job," said Davis, who played for the Gamecocks from 1994-96. "He cares about his players. He holds them accountable. Ten years ago, this wouldn't have been an issue."
Watson, who played for Eddie Fogler in the mid-1990s, said different coaches have different styles.
"Coach Fogler was laid-back, his demeanor never changed and coach Martin is an in-your-face coach," Watson said. "Both styles can work if you've got the right coach and the right players. There's no doubt that Coach Martin is passionate about his players and his job. I think he just took it too far and made it too personal. I think he understands that now."
Jeff Hartsell and Ryan Wood contributed to this story.