It's apparent that there are problems with the South Carolina basketball program.
This team, for whatever reason, has been in a steady decline since Darrin Horn's first season as the Gamecocks basketball coach. Horn's first year at South Carolina went well. There was a share of the SEC East title in the 2008-2009 season. Horn even agreed to a two-year contract extension boosting his pay in December of 2009.
Things were looking up.
Then the downfall came.
This team began to perform at extremely low levels and finished with losing records the past two seasons. The 2011-2012 season started off even worse. A loss to Elon on the road was followed up by a loss to Tennessee State. There's no consistency on this team. Offense is non-existent.
What's the problem here?
Is it that players are talented enough? Is it the coaching staff? Could it be something else?
The easiest solution would be start over and end the Darrin Horn Project. Is this a possibility though?
There are plenty of fans calling for Darrin Horn's head on a plate right now. South Carolina is currently 9-10 on the season with an 1-4 start in the SEC. This offense is atrocious at times and fan support has dwindled. Season ticket sales have been in a decline and fans just have no interest in a once proud program.
Horn's failure so far at USC is magnified when you look at the successes of Steve Spurrier and Ray Tanner. The two major programs are enjoying some of their greatest success ever while the basketball program continues to be a mess. There are two coaching legends heading up the two major sports and then there's Darrin Horn. You almost feel bad for the guy having to be in the same room as Ray Tanner and Steve Spurrier.
Is this the last of Darrin Horn? It's hard to say. Athletic director Eric Hyman has been labeled as "cheap" when it comes to the financial situation of his department. Horn's extended contract and the buyout that comes with it are currently over two million dollars if he's let go before April. After April? It drops to $1.25 million dollars.
You would think that money wouldn't be an issue but in this day and age it plays a huge role when thinking of making a coaching move. If South Carolina were to make a move then fans would certainly want the name Gregg Marshall on the list. Marshall was once the coach at Winthrop who has since moved on to Witchita State and has seen bigger success in his newest endeavor. Marshall was a name that was seen on the Texas A&M and NC State coaching vacancies of the past year or so. He turned them down.
Is he waiting on South Carolina?
How about another run at Tubby Smith?
But South Carolina has Darrin Horn right now. Horn came in with a lot of fanfare and had the qualities most Gamecock fans wanted when he was hired. He was a young coach with an up tempo style of play that would re-energize the fan base from the Dave Odom years and bring South Carolina basketball back to prominence. Now we're watching in misery as this team continues to fall into the depths of the SEC.
The tough part of the SEC schedule is over for the Gamecocks. There could actually be a chance for the Gamecocks to pick up a few wins but you know what? It's not enough to make the postseason this year. This will be the third straight year South Carolina has failed to make a postseason under Darrin Horn.
So what do we go back to?
Progress. I'm talking about progress.
This team is young. I'll give them that. There could be a few nice quality pieces to build on with this staff. But something needs to give. Darrin Horn will likely return to the Gamecocks in 2012-2013. At this point, if he doesn't make a run for the NCAA's, then this should be the last you see of Coach Darrin Horn. It's disappointing. I bought in during his introductory press conference. I could feel something brewing but it's just been one bad year after another. Fan support will be non-existent next year. This program is losing money and that's a bad sign in today's world of high-major college athletics.
If Darrin Horn wants some inspiration then he just needs to look to his counterpart Dawn Staley. Staley has built this program up the right way and this year is already one of the best years in recent memory for the women's basketball team. They've been here the same amount of time but if you look at their career paths then it's obvious to see who was the better hire.
I hope for the best. I appreciate the efforts of these young men and wish them the best. I hope Darrin Horn proves us all wrong and coaches this team to new levels soon enough.
I just don't see it happening and AD Eric Hyman will have his hand forced at some point in the next year. Sometimes things look good on paper. They look good in person. But they just don't work out.
This looks like one of those times where it doesn't work out.