COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina basketball program needed its building to have a personality that could work with the head men’s coach.
When Frank Martin arrived to Columbia in 2012, he saw a Colonial Life Arena with barely any life, let alone some sort of an indication that it housed high-major college basketball teams.
“If you took somebody that didn’t know this was Columbia, South Carolina and blindfolded them, put them in this building, they’d have no idea that they played basketball in this building,” Martin said. “Now, it’s starting to have a flavor that there are two very good basketball teams that call this home and that they play for the University of South Carolina. We’ve made tremendous progress.
“There’s still a long way to go. [Athletics director] Ray [Tanner has] worked his tail off to create better opportunities for the way that we try to conduct our programs, both Dawn and I.”
Generally speaking, according to Martin, he and Dawn Staley, the women’s coach, are on the same page about the next step for the South Carolina basketball facilities.
Put the pedal to the medal.
“We can’t allow a momentum that we – I’m saying we, I’m not saying me – that we have created over the last five years,” Martin said. “We can’t allow that to go to waste. They didn’t do that in baseball. … I’m not taking a shot. I love it. I love the fact that baseball here has won national championships and I get to work for that guy.
“I love the fact that when I go to their building, I can see – think about the players that play there. Do you think anyone needs to tell them about the success that they’ve had before them? All you’ve got to do is walk through there. They look around. … I better do right around here. No one needs to tell them, ‘You know what we had five years ago?’
“Our players would walk by and see blank concrete walls. They go out into the arena to play, they had no idea, other than the fact that they play here, that’s what we do here, play basketball. All that needs to change. That’s part of it. … We need some of that personalization for basketball, because there has been some success, so we’ve got to grow it.”