Less than 24 hours after advancing to the first Final Four of his career – and the first Final Four in South Carolina history – Frank Martin still couldn’t put his feelings into words.
“Still speechless,” Martin said Monday on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Still speechless. It’s unbelievable the incredible things that happen to me in my life.”
No. 7 South Carolina (26-10) beat No. 4 Florida (27-9), 77-70, in the East regional final Sunday. The Gamecocks trailed 44-33 at halftime but outscored the Gators 44-30 thereafter.
When the final buzzer sounded? Complete bliss.
“I couldn’t even speak to Mike White,” Martin said of Florida’s 40-year-old head coach. “I just said, ‘Mike, great game.’ I couldn’t get words out. It’s 35 years worth of basketball, from my sophomore year in high school to the present day. It’s just incredible. I still don’t know how to express it. I’ve been laying around all day. We don’t practice today. I’m not going to study Gonzaga until tonight. I’ve been just laying down reminiscing. It’s an unbelievable moment. So much emotion. I’m still speechless. I’m living the dream. I don’t know what else to say.”
Martin, 51, coached high school basketball in Miami in the 1980s and 1990s. He would often go to Final Four practices for professional development.
Now he’ll be leading them.
“I remember going and just sitting in (the) stands and saying, ‘Wow, that’s awesome. I’m sure those guys are real smart on the court,’” Martin recalled. “I’d go back and want to do my job better. I remember the first time that I went to a Final Four where somebody personal to me (was involved). Anthony Grant was an assistant at Florida and Brent Wright and Udonis Haslem had played for me. And then I was there (in 2000) and I’m watching them, and I kind of lived it through them. Then I did it with Hugs (Bob Huggins) when West Virginia went (in 2010).”
Martin was an assistant coach under Huggins at Cincinnati in the mid-2000s.
“I was the head coach at K-State and I flew in, and that’s the game where (Da’Sean) Butler tears up his knee,” Martin said. “My wife and I were sitting right behind his bench and lived that moment with him. Now I get to do it myself and it’s going to be an incredible, incredible moment for me when I walk out for that open practice.”
South Carolina will face No. 1 Gonzaga (36-1) in the Final Four this Saturday in Glendale at 6:09 p.m. ET. Martin will watch film of the Zags, of course, but the game plan will be straightforward: defend, rebound, execute.
“We tweak what we do, (but) we don’t scheme defensively,” Martin said. “We tweak our ball-screen coverage. We tweak our low-post coverage. But if I were to walk in and start telling our guys that we’re preparing a little differently or we’re playing differently than what we’ve done all year, they’ll walk out of practice. They’ll tell me, ‘Hey, whenever you decide to help us, come back in here.’ So we got to be who we are and go out there and play it to the best of our abilities and try and get to the finish line to see if we can live to see another day.”
If victorious, South Carolina would face the winner of No. 1 North Carolina (31-7) versus No. 3 Oregon (33-5) in the national championship Monday, April 3.