COLUMBIA, S.C. — Frank Martin sat in a press conference Tuesday when his phone rang. He offered it up for anyone else to answer, suggesting saying to the caller that they had the wrong number.
It has been that kind of week for the South Carolina coach, as his phone won’t stop ringing since the Gamecocks clinched a spot in the Final Four. But the people who haven’t called, Martin said Tuesday, are the ones who know what the week feels like for a coach.
“In moments like this you know who the people that really understand are because they don’t call, they don’t text,” Martin said. “They leave you alone because they get it.”
Among those people are West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, one of Martin’s mentors, and Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan, who used to coach at Florida. Martin reached out to both coaches on Monday to garner insight into how to approach a Final Four from a coaching standpoint.
“I speak about being on this ride before and the Sweet 16 and all that,” Martin said. “This week is a brand new week for me.”
Martin picked from the Final Four-experienced coaches’ minds, especially seeking to learn how to manage the week. Huggins and Donovan have six Final Four appearances between them, giving them plenty of experience in managing potential distractions for assistant coaches and players.
Martin, whose Gamecocks play at 6:09 p.m. ET Friday against Gonzaga, said there’s not enough time in the day to balance all the responsibilities of playing in the Final Four, from press conferences to events. His concern is that all the hoopla surrounding college basketball’s biggest stage can distract from the focus of the trip.
“It’s to play basketball and compete for a trophy,” Martin said. “I spoke with both of them at length about those things. It was really good for me. It cleared my mind of a lot of things.”
One subject that Martin didn’t approach with Huggins was playing Gonzaga, as Huggins’ Mountaineers gave the Zags a tightly contested game last weekend. Martin said he didn’t want to put Huggins in that position, as the WVU coach also is friends with Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
But in the hour of conversation with Huggins and the time spent talking with Donovan, Martin got what he needed heading into the biggest week of his coaching tenure at South Carolina.
“I’m still going to mess up stuff because I’m a stubborn S.O.B and I’m eventually going to do stuff my way,” he said. “But that gave me clarity, it allowed me to think so I can put my own flavor in how we want to manage this week.”