First and foremost, it should certainly be addressed that Frank Martin took the South Carolina basketball program to heights that it has never seen before.
The 2016-17 season was more than likely the best season in program history, as the Gamecocks reached their first ever Elite Eight and Final Four. With that out of the way, the rest of Frank Martin’s resume with the Gamecocks has been, to be generous, very average.
This piece might get somewhat critical, so I’d like to clarify that this has nothing to do with Frank Martin personally. He is a class individual and truly cares about his players and all of those around him.
This article will be broken down into three major categories where there are red flags from Frank Martin. Recruiting, contract, and overall results.
Let’s take a closer look at how Frank Martin has performed at South Carolina.
It is no secret that Frank Martin is not a strong recruiter. Martin’s average recruiting class ranking since arriving in Columbia is outside of the top 50 nationally.
Howeve,r the more concerning matter is the inability to recruit the state of South Carolina.
The Palmetto State has a surprisingly high amount of basketball talent coming out of high school most years. Since the 2016 class, the state has produced 12 recruits that are ranked as four-stars or higher.
Frank Martin has signed zero of those recruits. Not one of them.
The most puzzling part about this is that the majority of those class cycles came after South Carolina’s Final Four run. Martin’s recruiting ability actually seemed to somehow get worse after the Final Four run, both in state and overall.
Martin’s best success, unironically, has come when his teams have better high school talent on the roster. It makes no sense why Martin does not put more of an emphasis on recruiting, especially in a state with a sneaky good amount of talent.
According to USA Today, Frank Martin is currently being paid an annual salary of $3.05 million dollars per year from the university. That figure makes him the 24th highest paid men’s basketball coach in the NCAA this year going off of base salaries.
Before I start to compare his salary with other coaches around the country, remember that Frank Martin has made one NCAA tournament in eight seasons so far.
With that said, here are some coaches that are being paid less than Frank Martin for their services:
Fran McCaffrey (Iowa) 4 tournaments in 9 seasons
Ed Cooley (Providence) 5 tournaments in 7 seasons
Bruce Weber (Kansas State) 5 tournaments in 7 seasons
Mark Turgeon (Maryland) 4 tournaments in 8 seasons
Leonard Hamilton (Florida State) 7 tournaments in 16 seasons
Jim Larrañaga (Miami) 4 tournaments in 8 seasons
Matt Painter (Purdue) 11 tournaments in 14 seasons
Mike Brey (Notre Dame) 12 tournaments in 19 seasons
Mike White (Florida) 3 tournaments in 4 seasons
Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) 34 tournaments in 43 seasons
*seasons excludes 2019-20 since there was no NCAA Tournament
The list goes on, but I’m sure everyone gets the point. Yes, a bunch of those schools have a more rich basketball history than South Carolina, but certainly not all of them.
Also what does that say about Carolina, since we are willing to pay more than those traditional schools for a head basketball coach, but be okay with the average results?
To boil it down, the point of this is that the return on investment in Frank Martin has not showed up so far in his near decade at the wheel.
Frank Martin’s overall record as the head basketball coach at South Carolina is just 148-120 (.552) and his conference record is 66-77 (.462). Both of those winning percentages are also worse than every one of the coaches above who are being paid less than Frank Martin, despite most of them being in more competitive conferences.
To put it bluntly, Martin’s numbers are average at an absolute best. Especially considering that the SEC is one of the weaker major conferences in basketball, it is even more concerning. It would be one thing if he had a sub .500 record in his first few years into a rebuild job.
Martin is entering year nine and has completely failed to capitalize on the momentum that was the Final Four run in 2017. He had an opportunity that no other coach at South Carolina has had before. He could sell actual success to recruits with a Final Four ring to back it up.
But again, the recruiting has inexplicably gotten worse since the Final Four run, and that is probably the most mysterious part about his tenure in Columbia.
At the end of the day, there isn’t any Gamecock fan that isn’t rooting for Frank Martin to succeed here. He brought the program to heights that it has never seen before, and every fan of the university wants to see him succeed enough to be able to retire here in Columbia.
However, if this season ends without an NCAA tournament once again, it is time to start taking a serious look at what would be the best option for the basketball program moving forward. South Carolina isn’t going to ask or expect any coach to make the NCAA tournament nine times out of ten.
But at the same time, one NCAA tournament in eight years shouldn’t be acceptable here either, especially when the athletics department is willing to shell out Top 25 money to the head coach.
While the tradition of winning isn’t as rich here as it is at other places, the basketball facilities are above average nationally and the department is willing to pay for a winner. This makes it fair to expect better from the Carolina basketball program, at least at this point in time.