Targeting Mike Neighbors as SC Men’s Coach Divides South Carolina Basketball Fan Base

On Tuesday night, the South Carolina basketball team hosted the red-hot Razorbacks in what could have been one of Frank Martin’s last games as the Gamecocks’ head coach.

Martin, who led South Carolina to its only Final Four appearance in 2017, has had a rough season. After suffering a 28-point shellacking to the Hogs, the Gamecocks are 6-13 overall and have lost six out of the last seven SEC games. Whatever momentum they had built up after a big win against Georgia this past weekend vanished in a 101-73 loss to Arkansas.
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Still, South Carolina basketball appears to be on the rocks in Martin’s ninth season there.

It has recently been dragged through an investigation into improper payments to an ex-assistant. Plus, Martin recently said something in a press conference that may trigger memories of John Pelphrey’s famous line about just laying down to “have a good bleed.”

Frank Martin said he’d received emails about this being a “disappointing season,” but then added: “There’s nothing disappointing about this season.”

As he’s reiterated all season, Martin said that winning and losing is secondary to making sure his players are “at peace” during the pandemic.  
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New South Carolina Basketball Coach?

Given the Gamecocks’ downturn, it should be no surprise there’s considerable rumbling in support of firing Martin. 

One fan ignited a firestorm by proposing an out-of-the-box idea: Go after Mike Neighbors, the head coach of the Arkansas women’s program.

Neighbors, who is building the Lady Razorbacks into a national powerhouse with a philosophy that is similar to Alabama coach Nate Oats’ drive-and-kick three-point heavy system, hasn’t yet been in the running for a major Power 5 head coaching job on the men’s side.

For South Carolina fan Summerof66, it makes a lot of sense, though.

By hiring Neighbors, South Carolina basketball would get “an offensive system that will recruit itself.” Instead of going after a big name, it should get someone who is tactically brilliant and can build a winning culture with a high IQ and EQ.

“I favor the offensive system used by Mike Neighbors at Arkansas (Rick Pitino ran this same 4-out, 1-in system with Jamal Mashburn while at UK in the 90s),” Summerof66 wrote on the South Carolina basketball 247 Sports message board. 

“I can tell kids it’s an NBA system that will get you scouted and into the league. This system would space the floor to allow drives and kick outs to players in the corners to shoot the 3.”

“The ‘lure’ for recruiting is not so much the personality and salesmanship of the coach, but it’s that South Carolina plays this pro-ready system that will get me to the NBA or pro ball overseas.”

This fan also knows Neighbors is a native of Greenwood, Arkansas and loves coaching the Razorbacks. He throws out the caveat: “Now let me confess he would [likely] not leave Arkansas WBB in my opinion [as] it’s his dream job.”

I agree that Neighbors probably wouldn’t leave for another SEC head coaching job, men’s or women’s, any time soon. However, why wouldn’t he at least listen? His current salary is $600,000 a year, while Martin’s is nearly $3 million. 

In response to the idea of going after Neighbors, South Carolina basketball fans’ opinions ran the gamut.

Some loved it.

“Mike Neighbors is a damn good coach and seems like a really classy guy as well,” cockygal20 wrote.

Another said there was no way that a college women’s coach could make the transition: “There is a difference between MBB and WBB. The schemes that apply and work in WBB won’t line up exactly to MBB. There are many other options out there.”

Another simply dropped this GIF:soldier GIF soldier GIF

And yet another fan was a hard pass on Neighbors. “Give me Mike Anderson all day,” Neverknown89 wrote.

That created this fun little back-and-forth:

It is true that Mike Anderson never got the Razorbacks to play as well as the Razorbacks’ men’s team is playing now under Eric Musselman

The Arkansas basketball team is currently No. 12 in the nation, which the program hasn’t achieved since 1998. It has also won 10 SEC games in a row, which hasn’t been accomplished since 1994.

Frank Martin had won his last two games against Arkansas before blowing it on Tuesday. The Gamecocks are still looking for their signature win of the season so far as they head to Kentucky on Saturday.

In most years, a win at Rupp Arena would be an obvious feather in the cap toward buying another year for Martin. This year, however, nothing outside of a Cinderella run in the SEC Tournament will likely ensure he’s going to stick around.

For more on Mike Neighbors’ past, including his experience coaching males at the high school level in Arkansas, listen to this in-depth interview:

Arkansas vs. South Carolina

Three Razorbacks scored 20-plus points – lead by a game-high 28 by Moses Moody – to give #12/13 Arkansas a 101-73 victory over South Carolina Tuesday night at Colonial Life Arena.

Arkansas (20-5, 12-4 SEC) clinches the #2 seed at next week’s SEC Tournament.

The win was the Razorbacks’ 10th SEC contest in a row, tying the program record for most consecutive SEC wins. (The 1993-94 won 10 straight SEC games to close the regular season.) Arkansas has also won four straight SEC road games for the first time since 1995. Also, the 28-point win is the 11th-biggest margin of victory in an SEC game.

For head coach Eric Musselman, he won his 20th game of the season, a feat he has accomplished in each of his six years. He is the only Razorback head coach to win at least 20 games in each of his first two years.
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Moody, who set the Arkansas freshman record for free throw made now with 120, tied his career high with 28 points while adding seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Justin Smith finished with 22 points, tying a career-high with six free throws made, and grabbed eight rebounds. JD Notae added 21 points with five rebounds, five assists, his most in an SEC game, and five steals to tie a career high.

Desi Sills returned to form with 15 points as he tied a career-high with five 3-pointers made.

Up next, Arkansas closes the regular season with a home game versus Texas A&M on Saturday (Mar. 6). Tipoff is set for 4:00 pm (CT) and the game will be televised on SEC Network.

No doubt, the amazing story below plays a role in Frank Martin’s downplaying the importance of winning and losing:
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